A NEWLY identified strain of the coronavirus could be contributing to a drastic spike in cases raging across California, according to new research released Monday.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that more than a third of recent COVID-19 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were infected with the strain, according to a release summarizing its findings. 

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The strain, known as CAL.20C,is different to the highly contagious variant in the United Kingdom, and includes five types of recurring mutations. The release said it's not yet clear if it's deadlier than other forms of the virus, CBS reports.

California's Department of Public Health said they are still testing if the new strain is highly contagious after it was detected in multiple counties across the state.

The DPH is questioning not only if it's more contagious, but also if the strain is being identified more frequently thanks to advancements in lab work.

Researchers have linked the strain to a number of large outbreaks in Santa Clara County alone.

"This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard," said Dr. Sara Cody, director of Santa Clara County's Public Health Department.

"The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further," she added.

The variant was also found in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego, Humboldt, Lake, Mono, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.

University of California San Francisco virologist Dr. Charles Chiu warned that the variant has three mutations in the spike protein, which is how the virus attaches itself to cells.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines target the spike protein, meaning this new variant's protein mutations could make it less susceptible to vaccine.

Dr. Chiu said he and scientists are looking at the variant to determine it is is "more infection or affects vaccine performance."

News of the new variant comes as coronavirus deaths skyrocket in over 30 states as the United States nears 400,000 total deaths since the start of the pandemic, almost as many people that died in World War II.

The nation's infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said if there was a sounding alarm to get the vaccine, it would be the U.S. version of a mutant strain.

"When you have a variant that is really very, very different, in the sense that it's more contagious, it tells you to do two things," Fauci said on Meet the Press.

"One, double down on the public health measures we've been talking about all the time," he continued. "Be very compulsive, as the president-elect says, at least for the first 100 days and maybe more, everybody wear a mask, keep the distance, avoid congregate settings." 

"The easiest way to evade this negative effect of these new isolates is to – when the vaccine becomes available, people should get vaccinated," Fauci added.

"If there was ever a clarion call for people to put aside vaccine hesitancy, if we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we'd be in very good shape."

In reference to the mutant strains found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pled with the federal government to stop travelers from entering the country.

"Stop those people from coming here," Cuomo said. "Why are you allowing people to fly into this country and then it’s too late?"

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) state epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan said it was too early to determine how contagious the strain actually will be.

"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," she said.

"We also urge anyone who has been exposed to the virus to isolate from others to protect themselves and their loved ones," Pan continued.

CDPH also added that there were too few cases for any substantial sequencing.

"Because genomic sequencing is not done equally across the state or country, it is too soon to know how prevalent the 452 variant is statewide, nationally or globally," CDPH officials said.

Dr. Pan warned state medical providers late Sunday evening to stop administering the Moderna doses from one batch after less than 10 people developed allergic reactions to the shot at a neighborhood vaccination clinic.

Over 330,000 doses from the batch were sent to 287 providers across California from January 5 to January 12.

“A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic," Pan said. "Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours."

"Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna and the state is complete."

Coronavirus, which is killing an average of one person every eight minutes in Los Angeles, has pusged funeral homes and crematoriums to their limits.

More than 2,700 bodies were being stored at both hospitals and the coroner's office as of January 15.

LA officials said the growing backlog of cases constitutes a threat to public health.

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