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State lab detects COVID variant linked to ‘several large outbreaks’ in CA

Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 at 4:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department has detected cases of the COVID-19 variant in Hawaii linked to a “growing number of cases” and several “large outbreaks” in California, officials announced Monday.

The so-called L452R variant was first detected in Denmark in March.

The state said the variant is not known to spread more quickly or pose a greater threat. However, they’re watching the situation closely.

“It is common to find variants to viruses like COVID-19. Some present greater risks than others,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist.

“We are working with our colleagues in other states as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the characteristics of this particular variant.”

Kemble said the variant was found in two, unrelated COVID-19 cases in Hawaii.

One of those cases, on Oahu, was linked to travel. The second case, detected on Maui, had no history of travel. The fact that the two were unrelated raised further concerns the variant may be more widespread in the islands.

Meanwhile, state lab officials said that their genome sequencing has not yet detected separate variants first found in the United Kingdom and South Africa that are more contagious.

“Hawaii is not immune to new strains,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, in a news release.

“The arrival of L452R reminds us we must wear masks, maintain physical distance from people outside our immediate households, and avoid crowds.”

The process of genome sequencing can take up to eight days. So by the time the analysis is complete, the patient is likely out of isolation and recovered.

When asked if the vaccines are capable of protecting people from the new strain, Kemble said it’s still early.

“Looking at how this virus behaves in cell lines in animals, but we don’t have good data yet on how it would interact in the real world with vaccines in humans.”

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