Jan 17, 2021 - Health

L.A. becomes first county to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases

COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County officials said Saturday they had detected the county's first case of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Why it matters: The announcement came as L.A. became the first county to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, straining the area's already overwhelmed health care system.

  • L.A. County on Saturday recorded 14,669 new coronavirus cases and 253 new deaths.
  • To date, the county has confirmed 1,003,923 positive cases and 13,741 deaths.

The big picture: California had previously reported cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in San Diego and San Bernardino counties, per the Los Angeles Times.

  • The L.A. County Department of Public Health said Saturday the variant was found in a male who traveled to Oregon, where he is now isolating.
  • "Although this is the first confirmed case of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County, Public Health believes that it is already spreading in the community," the department noted.
  • While the variant is more contagious, it does not appear to be resistant to existing vaccines or cause more severe symptoms.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that variant, detected in more than a dozen states, will likely become the dominant strain in the U.S. in March if more steps aren't taken to mitigate the spread.

What they're saying: "The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized," said L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer in a news release.

  • "Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer," she added.
  • "This more contagious variant makes it easier for infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in our homes."
  • "We need to use the tools at hand to keep each other from becoming infected.”

Go deeper: SoCal on the brink

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