South African variant detected in California for first time

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The more infectious variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa has surfaced in California for the first time, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday.

The state has identified two cases of the variant, Newsom said: one in Alameda County and one in Santa Clara County, both of which are part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

South Carolina was the first state to detect a case of the variant first identified in South Africa in late January. It has since been detected in Virginia, Maryland and Texas as well.

Why it matters: This variant spreads more easily than earlier strains of the virus, presenting additional peril. Researchers are still assessing existing vaccines’ efficacy in treating the variant.

That could undercut California’s efforts to get the pandemic under control even as transmission rates and hospitalization numbers decline and the state makes gradual progress on vaccinating more people. The state has also identified more 159 cases of a variant first identified in the U.K. in California and more than 1,000 West Coast variant cases.

"The issue of mutations is top of mind," Newsom said.

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