Testing finds "California" variants of COVID-19 in Erie County; strain is 20% more transmissible

Coronavirus tests
Posted at 12:13 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 12:15:17-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Testing performed by the University at Buffalo has detected "California" variants of COVID-19 in five specimens collected from Erie County residents.

An interdisciplinary team at UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences performed genetic sequencing on almost 1,000 specimens, looking for mutations of COVID-19. The team found "California" variants in five samples, three of which were taken on January 15 and two of which were taken on January 20.

The "California" variants are named after where they were first discovered in July of last year. The variants are 20% more transmissible-- meaning able to be passed from one person to another-- than the original COVID-19 strain, according to the CDC. Current treatments for COVID-19 are also less effective against the "California" variants.

“With vaccination rates rising and public health measures still largely in place, we would expect to see case numbers and hospitalizations decline since January,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein in a statement. “Instead, we now see the number of new cases and hospitalizations increasing. We need to continue this sequencing work before drawing any firm conclusions, but it is very possible that more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants are preventing further decreases in our case numbers.”