A new coronavirus variant has been tied to at least 90 infections in a deadly outbreak at a medical center in San Jose, California

  • A new coronavirus variant is linked to a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center. The outbreak has resulted in at least 90 infections and one death. 
  • The variant called L452R was discovered in other countries and states last year. 
  • It's different than another, more transmissible variant that was initially discovered in the UK. 
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A new coronavirus variant has been linked to multiple outbreaks in Santa Clara County, located southeast of San Francisco. One of the outbreaks has led to at least 90 infections and one death at the Kaiser Permanente medical center in San Jose, public health officials said. 

The variant known as L452R has been discovered in other states and countries, but is now spreading rapidly through California. It's different than the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first found in the UK. 

"The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further," Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement. "This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard."

California is working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health departments, and laboratory sequencing partners to learn more about the variant and how it spreads, according to the joint statement from the California Department of Public Health, Santa Clara County, and the University of California San Francisco.

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"It's too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus," Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the CDPH, said.

The statement said the variant was linked to the Kaiser Permanente outbreak, which resulted in the death of one staff member. County health officials have fined the medical center $43,000 for alleged delays in reporting cases, NBC reported. The facility denied the delay. 

The cases are believed to be tied to an employee who wore an inflatable costume on Christmas to cheer patients up. The fan on the "air-powered costume" could have spread droplets to 77 staff members and 15 patients. 

This variant has been found in several other counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, how prevalent it is across the state or country is not yet known since genomic sequencing is not done equally across the state.

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