Health officials warned Tuesday that the potentially more contagious variant of COVID-19 first found in the UK might be spreading through California right now, which is why the state has seen such a huge spike in cases.

What’s going on?

San Diego County’s health department said it found 24 new cases of the new COVID-19 mutation through genome sequencing from samples collected from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31, 2020, according to Politico.

  • Officials believe an additional four positive COVID-19 tests linked to the confirmed cases will have the same strain, called B.1.1.7. 
  • None of the 24 confirmed patients have any travel history, which is another sign of the mutation’s community spread.
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Los Angeles County — which has become an epicenter for the coronavirus in recent days — likely saw the mutation spread there, which is why there’s an increase in case numbers and hospitalizations, public health director Barbara Ferrer said, according to Politico.

California surge is getting worse

The recent coronavirus surge in California continues to get worse. In fact, Los Angeles County ambulance crews were recently told not to transport patients who had little chance of survival, CNN reports.

  • “Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units,” supervisor Hilda Solis said, per CNN.
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In fact, Ferrer said that one person dies every 15 minutes from the coronavirus. And those numbers might get worse, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.

  • “The increases in cases are likely to continue for weeks to come as a result of holiday and New Year’s Eve parties and returning travelers,” Ferrer said. “We’re likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we’ve faced the entire pandemic, and that’s hard to imagine.”