New COVID-19 variant found in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NEXSTAR) – A case of the new coronavirus strain that spread quickly in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

Governor Newsom made the announcement during an afternoon press conference with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who said he was not surprised.

Newsom said the case was detected in Southern California.

The news comes after Colorado officials confirmed Wednesday the first person in the U.S. known to be infected with the new and – apparently more contagious – variant. That individual was identified as a Colorado National Guardsman who had been sent to help out at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak. Health officials said Wednesday a second Guard member may have it, too.

The cases have triggered a host of questions about how the mutant version circulating in England arrived in the U.S. and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the United States.

“The virus is becoming more fit, and we’re like a deer in the headlights,” warned Dr. Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute. He noted that the U.S. does far less genetic sequencing of virus samples to discover variants than other developed nations do, and thus was probably slow to detect this new mutation.

This is a developing story; the Associated Press contributed to this report.