San Diego County

Variant or ‘Scary-ant'?: Health Officials and Experts Aren't Sounding Alarm on California Variant Yet

San Diego County's director of epidemiology and and epidemiologist from San Diego State University say the emergence of yet another COVID-19 variant isn't cause for alarm, especially if the research on the strain is limited

NBC Universal, Inc.

Research into the new, so-called California variant of COVID-19 indicates it’s more dangerous than the original virus.

A study of the California variant B.1.427/B.1.429, led by scientists at UC San Francisco, indicates the mutation could make people sicker and vaccines less effective.

The California cariant has been in San Diego since the end of last year, according to county health experts, and Scripps Research Institute estimates 30 to 40% of the cases detected in San Diego invovle this variant.

With all that said, no one at the county's Wednesday coronavirus news briefing was sounding an alarm.

“Even if it is a little more contagious than the other ones circulating in the community, the take home message is the same. You need to do all the things we've recommended to prevent transmission," County Epidemiologist Dr. Eric McDonald said.

SDSU Epidemiologist Corinne McDaniels-Davidson downplayed the findings of the new California variant research.

"The variants are kind of innocent until proven guilty. I would worry about making those kinds of claims. This is just a 'preprint,' it hasn't been subjected to peer review,” McDaniels-Davidson said.

Publishing a preprint is a way to get the science out fast, according to McDaniels -Davidson.

"There are almost always reviewer comments that either require minor or, more commonly, major revisions to a study before it is published," McDaniels-Davidson explained.

County health officials and McDaniels-Davidson agree that while the virus may change, the protective measures stay the same.

"When you immunize enough people or even some people, you're taking away the chances for the virus to replicate which means it has fewer chances to mutate," McDaniels-Davidson said.

For the moment, she calls it more “scary-ant” than variant, explaining that if you have a large group of susceptible people it is very likely variants can emerge and really take hold.

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