Two local COVID-19 patients are carrying B.1.351, the South African variant of the virus. One is in Alameda County. The other is here in Santa Clara County.
The infected individual in Santa Clara County was traveling internationally until mid-January and became symptomatic upon their return. They then quarantined for 10 days, as mandated by the County for returning travelers.
Genomic sequencing conducted at Stanford University uncovered the variant. Such sequencing is being conducted locally at extremely low levels, so its results aren’t representative of COVID-19 variants’ overall presence locally.
“As we work quickly to learn more, our best defense right now is to stay vigilant and reduce transmission as much as possible,” said Health Officer for the County of Alameda Dr. Nicholas Moss. “This is a warning to all of us that we must stay on top of community transmission.”
The currently available vaccines have been shown to be far less effective against B.1.351 than they are against other COVID variants.
Said the County in a statement, “Public health officials strongly discourage travel and remind residents to reduce their risk of exposure to anyone they don’t live with. Always wear a mask outside the home, maintain a distance of at least six feet from those outside of the household especially when indoors, and stay home as much as possible except for essential activities. Residents should also stay current on vaccine eligibility in their area, and when their turn comes, get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, double-masking has been shown to decrease the odds of COVID-19 transmission even more than regular masking, and is thus now being recommended more.