Researchers say they have found a new coronavirus strain in Southern California, currently one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States.
Cedars-Sinai, one of the largest non-profit academic medical centers in the United States, said its team looked at samples from 192 patients at its hospital in Los Angeles, as well as more than 4,000 samples from throughout Southern California during November and December.
The new strain was found in 36% of Los Angeles samples and in 24% of samples from the wider region.
The study’s co-authors said that prevalence “was striking” since the strain was first detected in a single case in July and then not again in Southern California until October.
They said the surge in COVID-19 cases in Southern California during the past two months coincides with the emergence of the new strain, which the researchers named CAL.20C.
The study was submitted for peer review last week.
Cedars-Sinai said that like a variant first detected in Britain that has been found in the United States, the new variant “is believed to be highly transmissible,” although the study findings did not indicate if it is more deadly than other coronavirus forms.
The researchers said the strain has been detected in Northern California, New York and Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles County is averaging more than 13,000 new cases per day during the past week. Two months ago, the county was averaging about 3,000 new cases per day.
The United States has seen a surge in both infections and deaths during that period, reaching by far its worst levels during the pandemic.