LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - Though the Delta variant remains the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, health officials on Friday confirmed the presence of the new, highly contagious Mu variant, which is also described as highly contagious and potentially able to evade vaccines.
The LA County Department of Public Health said it has so far detected 167 cases of the Mu variant, all between June 19 and Aug. 21, with the majority of those infections discovered in July.
Officially labeled a "variant of interest" by the World Health Organization, the Mu variant was first found in Colombia in January. It has since been detected in 39 other countries. Initial reviews of the new strain suggest the potential to evade available vaccines, though county health officials said "more studies are needed to determine whether Mu variant is more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to vaccine and treatments than other COVID-19 strains."
On Thursday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the Delta variant represents nearly all the cases in the county that undergo the sequencing needed to identify specific viral mutations.
"The identification of variants like Mu, and the spreading of variants across the globe, highlights the need for L.A. County residents to continue to take measures to protect themselves and others," Ferrer said in a statement Friday. "This is what makes getting vaccinated and layering protections so important. These are actions that break the chain of transmission and limits COVID-19 proliferation that allows for the virus to mutate into something that could be more dangerous."
The county reported another 37 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, raising the cumulative death toll from the virus to 25,401.
Another 2,673 cases were also confirmed, lifting the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 1,414,854.
There are also 1,641 people currently hospitalized for the coronavirus, according to the county.
Ferrer noted Thursday that the county has begun to see decreases in the rate of new infections. According to Ferrer, the county's cumulative seven-day rate of new cases was 159 per 100,000 residents this week, a 16% drop from last week and down 22% from the peak of 204 per 100,000 residents in mid-August.
"It's important to note we are seeing less transmission across the board in general, but because the Delta variant is so capable of infecting lots of people, we still have very high numbers of people getting infected," Ferrer said Thursday. "And while in L.A. County, you look at our numbers and say we have tons and tons of people vaccinated ... but we also have tons and tons of people that are unvaccinated -- a very good reservoir for highly infectious variants."
The county's rate of people testing positive for the virus rose Friday to 3.3%, up from 2.97% a day earlier.
Among eligible county residents aged 12 and over, 75% have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 65% are fully vaccinated.
Again touting the effectiveness of the vaccines, Ferrer said that of nearly 5.3 million residents who were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, 37,614 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 0.71%, while 1,049 have been hospitalized, a rate of 0.02%. Of those fully vaccinated, 118 have died, for a rate of 0.0022%.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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