Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
California and New York
There is also another variant of concern in California, what appears to be a homegrown variant known as B.1.427 and B.1.429. This variant is now spreading widely in California, and research out of UC San Francisco suggests it may make people sicker and it may be more contagious than the earlier coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said a variant spreading in New York and the East Coast — B.1.526, which also appears capable of evading some of the body’s defenses — had been identified in Southern California.
Most COVID-19 tests determine only whether or not someone is infected, so it can be hard to say exactly which patients have which variant. But Pinsky said, doing more sophisticated lab tests to figure out which variants are spreading in any given community is helpful because then doctors can tweak treatment plans. For instance, people infected with certain variants respond well to monoclonal antibody treatments. But for other variants, such as the California variant, a combination antibody treatment may make more sense.
In recent weeks, researchers like Charles Chiu, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, have been tracking the California variant in the Bay Area, focusing on San Francisco’s Mission District, where COVID-19 has hit a largely Latino community hard. As with other variants, experts are tracking how they respond to what are known as neutralizing antibodies — looking at whether the virus resists — and studying transmissibility by looking at how quickly the virus spreads, within individual households and beyond.
Health experts’ understanding is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. But they do know that even though vaccines may be slightly less effective against certain variants, all three approved in the U.S. — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have shown to be 100% effective at preventing coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations regardless of the variant.
In other words, “even if you get infected and vaccinated, you will not die and you will not go to the hospital,” Ott said.
As far as medicine goes, that’s a minor miracle.
And the drug companies that make the vaccines are already studying ways to make the shots more effective at warding off the variants, potentially through booster shots.
Still, health officials are warning residents not to get too complacent, particularly in places that are allowing businesses to reopen.
“It’s one of the reasons we’re doubling down on mask-wearing and doubling down on our guidelines,” Newsom said Thursday, pointing to Texas reopening all businesses and dropping a masking requirement as an example of what not to do. “This is not the time to spike the ball.”