MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV) -- Local genomic surveillance of COVID-19 variants has officially started in Monterey County according to the Monterey County Health Department.
It's a program the health department says is coming at a critical time during the pandemic when new variants are being detected in the U.S.
These variants include the B.1.1.7. (United Kingdom), B.1.351 (South Africa), B.1.429, and B.1.427 (L452R) variants.
So far the health lab in Monterey County has found most of the cases locally are of the L452R Variant, a California-borne variant that is associated with 70% of cases locally.
Monterey County Health says they've had the technology to perform this type of specialized testing since late 2020.
Viruses are constantly changing, including the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These genetic variations occur over time and can lead to the emergence of new variants that may have different characteristics. Surveillance such as that being conducted in the Monterey County Public Health Laboratory can help detect new variants with the ability to:
- Spread more quickly among people
- Cause either milder or more severe disease in people
- Evade detection by specific diagnostic tests
- Decrease their susceptibility to therapeutics that employ monoclonal antibodies
- Evade natural or vaccine-induced immunity
While vaccine supplies remain scarce and new variants continue to spread, it is important that all Monterey County residents continue to adhere to COVID-19 prevention strategies like:
- Staying home except for essential activities
- Wearing a mask when leaving home
- Limiting interactions with people outside your immediate household
- Keeping physical distance of at least 6 feet apart
- Washing hands for 20 seconds
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you are eligible and vaccine is available