Additional Case of South African Variant of COVID-19 Detected in Santa Clara County

March 17, 2021

Increasing prevalence of the B.1.351 variant and other variants across the country reiterates the importance of continuing prevention measures

Santa Clara County, CA  A second case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351, also known as the South African variant, has been detected in Santa Clara County. The individual in this case was tested in early March and the specimen was randomly selected for genomic sequencing. This is the fourth confirmed case of the B.1.351 variant in the State of California. An investigation is under way. The case is believed to have resulted from community transmission and is not travel related. One travel-related case of the South African variant was detected in Santa Clara County earlier this year.

“Considering the national trends, we have been operating under the assumption that these variants were circulating at some level in our communities,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health for the County of Santa Clara. “This latest case confirms that we do have community transmission, and reminds us to not let down our guard in the middle of this pandemic.”

This new development comes as the number of cases linked to another variant of concern, B.1.1.7--which was first identified in the United Kingdom--has increased to 15 in Santa Clara County. Health officials caution that the true level of community spread tied to these variants is unknown, since current genomic sequencing capabilities only allow a fraction of positive cases to be sequenced.

“There is still a lot we are learning, but we do know some very key things about COVID-19 and how to protect ourselves,” said Dr. George Han, Deputy Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara. “Even with these variants circulating in our community, the best tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones remain familiar to us and are available now. Wear your masks, keep your distance from others, avoid gatherings, especially indoors, and get vaccinated when it's your turn.”

As the country races to vaccinate as many people as possible, public health officials say we must act now to slow the spread of the virus and keep it at bay. This means relying on prevention measures that have already proven highly effective. Travel is strongly discouraged, and the County continues to urge community members to wear a mask, keep their distance, and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.

As many areas lift restrictions and counties head to less restrictive tiers in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, County health officials remind the public that although some activities are now allowed, they are high-risk, and it remains critical for the community to minimize exposure.

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