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South Africa coronavirus variant found in California

South Africa coronavirus variant found in California
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The South African coronavirus variant was detected in California for the first time, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble California law will send 0 direct payments to low-income residents Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities MORE (D) announced Wednesday.

The presence of the variant, which was detected in two counties, comes as California sees progress in the fight against the pandemic but still is grappling with alarmingly high numbers of cases and hospitalizations. 

“As of a few hours ago, we have the first reported cases of South African variants. Two cases have been reported through Stanford, one in Alameda County and one in Santa Clara County. So two variants that we identified as South African variants are now in the state of California,” Newsom said at a press conference

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Besides the South African variant, Newsom also said there are 159 identifiable cases of a variant that originated in the United Kingdom. Both mutations are more infectious than the original strain that spread around the globe, though they are not believed to be more lethal. 

The South African variant has also been detected in South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Texas.

"The issue of mutations is top of mind," Newsom said.

The arrival of the South African variant comes as the Golden State is working to get its coronavirus outbreak under control.

The state’s test positivity rate has dropped from 13.9 percent a month ago to 4.8 percent, Newsom said, and hospitalizations have fallen 34 percent in the last two weeks.

Still, California has had more than 3.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 8,200 new infections reported Tuesday alone, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Nearly 12,000 people are in the hospital, including more than 3,200 who are in intensive care units. More than 44,400 people have died in the state. 

New vaccines have offered a glimmer of hope, though studies suggest that some shots may be less effective against the South African variant.