COVID-19 variants pose a significant threat to worldwide efforts to end the pandemic; to date, 46 states have reported at least one case of a variant of concern, including cases caused by B1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 lineages. The B1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom and associated with increased transmission and disease severity, has been identified in Southern California, including Orange County, for several weeks. Based on limited surveillance, this variant has been identified relatively rarely amongst strains genotyped in OC, but CDC modeling indicates that this strain may become predominant here and in the United States in the coming months. OCHCA is working to enhance local surveillance to clarify the presence and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in the county. A summary of variant strains and their epidemiology in California can be found in the attached document.
OCHCA will also be conducting surveillance to characterize breakthrough disease in vaccinated persons. It will be important to identify how frequently breakthrough disease occurs, particularly severe disease, which populations are affected, and whether COVID-19 variants are disproportionately causing these events.