The strain, reported in the United Kingdom, is believed to be potentially more transmissible than others. The probe comes as hospital space continues to dwindle and and an outage blacked out daily numbers on Friday.
By ELIZABETH CHOU | Daily News
As demand for precious hospital space continued to rise on Friday, Dec. 25, Los Angeles county public health officials were asking testing labs to look for a variant of COVID-19 — reported in the United Kingdom — that appears to be more transmissible than other strains.
In a memo issued Thursday, public health officials asked that laboratories help with “surveillance to detect the variant strain and to report any occurrence” of it to them.
This strain is believed to be potentially more transmissible than others that have been circulating, but there is no evidence that it results in more severe illness or greater risk of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county memo, issued to healthcare providers, came as Los Angeles county experiences a record-breaking surge that on Thursday resulted in a report that 148 people who tested positive for COVID-19 died in a single day.
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While holidays such as Thanksgiving — during which families and friends typically gather — may be contributing to the high numbers, public health officials in Los Angeles county have also been perplexed by the intensity of the latest surge in cases.
The surge appears to be continuing into the Christmas holiday, during which large numbers of people have flocked to outdoor malls to shop. Some also turned out to attend indoor religious services, but in much smaller numbers than in previous years.
Meanwhile, public officials have been trying to learn more about the variant strain found in the United Kingdom that has been especially prevalent in London and in the southeast.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued an advisory saying that this “variant strain has been predicted to potentially be more rapidly transmissible than other circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2,” although there is no evidence this strain will cause more severe illness or greater risk of death.
Public health officials also say there is no evidence at this time that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being administered against the virus would be less effective against this variant.
Due to a Spectrum communications service outage, county public health officials said Friday that they were unable to report the daily numbers for COVID-19 cases and deaths. Instead, that information will be included in Saturday’s daily report.
Although there were no numbers reported by the county, state data on hospitalizations again showed and increase. The state reported that 6,770 people are hospitalized, with 1,335 of them in the Intensive Care Unit. That is up by 62 from the previous numbers of 6,708 people in hospitals, with 1,329 of them in the ICU.
With technical issue delaying results, LA County reports two-day total of 29,464 new coronavirus cases.
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In total, by Christmas Eve, Public Health officials had identified 677,299 positive cases of COVID-19 across all of L.A. County, with a total of 9,299 deaths.
With the rising hospitalization numbers, public officials have also warned of the crisis reaching a more dire stage, in which overwhelmed hospitals that are already often a capacity may no longer be able to provide full care to all of their patients.
Planning for rationing care, which involves deciding which patients to provide care to over others, is already underway, public officials have said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also warned of this possibility that care will need to be rationed, in his briefing on Wednesday, ahead of the Christmas holiday.
“If we continue to spread this virus, if we see a linear growth of this for the next two weeks, we will not have enough medical staff to treat everyone at hospitals may soon be in the position of having to ration care,” he said. “That means the doctors will be forced to determine who lives and who dies, and more Angelenos will lose their lives, not just the COVID-19, but to call emergencies.”