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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

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

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