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UK Variant Now Dominant Strain Of COVID-19 In Los Angeles County; Brazil, South African Variants Also Detected

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — More contagious international variants continue to circulate in Los Angeles County, according to public health officials.

Los Angeles County is in the least restrictive tier of the state's reopening schedule, which is about to be thrown out on June 15, but public health officials say that people should remain vigilant because of COVID-19 variants that continue to circulate.

The U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) has been found to have overtaken the California variant (B.1.427/429), and is now the dominant strain of COVID in Los Angeles County, according to public health officials. Of 40 specimens analyzed by L.A. County Public Health's Laboratory in the previous week, 53% were the UK variant, and none were of the California strain.

Public health officials say the lab has also detected six cases of the Brazil (P.1) and one of the South African (B.1.351) variants.

With the CDC now recommending that people who have been fully vaccinated can go without masks indoors and outdoors, more unvaccinated people may be following suit, putting themselves in danger.

"The identification of these variants and the news of spreading variants from across the globe highlights the need for L.A. County residents to continue to take measures to protect themselves and others: this is particularly true for those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 who can end up unknowingly being incubators of variants of concern," a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said. "If you are not yet vaccinated or unable to get vaccinated, it is very important that you continue to wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of distance when around others not in your household and consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can."

Research shows that the vaccines now available to the public appear to be highly effective against variants of concern, reducing the risk of getting sick with COVID by 94% among fully vaccinated healthcare workers.

Vaccines have not yet been approved for use in children younger than 12, and health officials say they should continue to wear masks indoors if physical distancing is not possible around other people.

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