LA County’s Ferrer warns of new – potentially more dangerous – COVID variants – Daily News

The average number of daily new COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County has jumped by about 200% over the past month, but while the increase hasn’t translated to rises in local hospitalizations or deaths, the public health director warned on Tuesday, May 3, that rapid spread of the virus is leading to more rapid emergence of new and potentially more dangerous variants.

Speaking to the Board of Supervisors, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the emergence of variants is becoming more frequent, with new COVID mutations being detected around the globe.

“Within weeks of one variant of concern dominating, there are reports from other parts of the country or other parts of the world of other subtypes or difference strains,” she said. “And this has been especially true with Omicron. So yes, we have here in the United States begun to see the proliferation of the BA.2.12.1 variant (of Omicron). … But in South Africa, they’re seeing a huge increase in cases that also now is resulting in an increase in hospitalizations with a very different mutated virus that’s been labeled BA.4 and BA.5.

“And again, for some of these variants, they have moved from other countries across the world,” she said. “So when folks ask why Public Health remains cautious, it is because every time there is a new variant that is more infectious, or potentially more infectious, … you have to be super careful about those who are most vulnerable in our communities. And in LA County that’s millions of people. It’s not a tiny number.”

She noted that each new variant detected in recent weeks has tended to be more infectious than the one that preceded it. And in the case of the variants being detected in South Africa, people who were previously infected with the Omicron variant are being re-infected, meaning the new virus strains are evading that natural immunity.

Ferrer again urged residents to get vaccinated, or to get booster shots, noting that while hospitalizations and deaths tied to the virus remain low, the situation can change.

“We’re in a better place, so we can remain hopeful,” she said. “But we shouldn’t lose all of our caution.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said that should be particularly true for people who visit retail stores or restaurants, stressing the need to protect workers even if masks are no longer required in such indoor settings.

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