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COVID: 'Racing Against Mutations' Researchers Find 2 New Virus Strains In California

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- As the world waits for vaccines, the coronavirus is changing.

"We're kind of racing against mutations," said UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford.

In addition to the United Kingdom virus strain that has forced stringent lockdowns, there are now two new strains on the West Coast, one in Southern California, and another in Northern California.

"We're watching the West Coast variants, over a thousand total variants between these two slightly different mutations. We reported both in Southern California, parts of the Bay Area, Santa Clara in particular," said Dr. Mark Ghaly in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Dr. Rutherford says these mutations can be expected every three to five reproductive cycles for the virus. Each variant behaves differently. The UK variant is 40 percent more transmissible. He calls the Northern California strain "stickier," still treatable, but it bonds more tightly to your lungs.

"It's not that the things we have don't work against them, its just that if you come into contact with them, they're somewhat more likely to cause infection," he said via Zoom.

Charles Chiu is a virologist at UCSF on the lookout for new strains of COVID-19.

"This variant is really a sign that we don't have the pandemic under control and we really need to do everything necessary to bring it under control and limit the number of cases," Chiu said.

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