Coronavirus strains first detected in California are officially 'variants of concern,' CDC says

Two coronavirus strains first detected in California are now officially "...

Posted: Mar 17, 2021 11:57 AM
Updated: Mar 17, 2021 11:57 AM

Two coronavirus strains first detected in California are now officially "variants of concern," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The variants may be about 20% more transmissible, the CDC said, citing early research. Some Covid-19 treatments may also be less effective against the strains. Still, the CDC didn't say that vaccines would stop working against them.

In laboratory studies, antibodies from vaccinated people do seem to be less effective at neutralizing the strains. But lower levels of antibodies may still be enough to protect against Covid-19, especially severe cases. Certain immune cells can also help protect against disease -- not just antibodies.

No coronavirus variants currently rise to the US government's highest threat level, "variant of high consequence." Coronavirus strains shown to significantly reduce vaccine effectiveness would fall under that category.

Concerns about antibody treatments

Still, health officials are concerned that some treatments may not work as well against the variants, which are officially called B.1.427 and B.1.429. Scientists have been monitoring the strains closely in California over the past few months.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recently halted shipments of a Covid-19 antibody treatment to California, Nevada and Arizona, where the variants are circulating widely.

The agency cited concerns that the treatment, which is made by Eli Lilly and Company and called bamlanivimab, may be less effective against the strains.

Officials said that another Covid-19 therapy made by Eli Lilly, a combination of bamlanivimab and another drug, etesevimab, can still be ordered. Early results show the drug combination may significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. A different antibody treatment made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was also not affected by the HHS action.

Both of those therapies are "cocktails" that combine two different lab-made antibodies. That's thought to make them more resilient to emerging strains of the coronavirus. If a mutation allows the virus to evade one antibody, it may still be susceptible to the other.

Eli Lilly said Tuesday that it is continually monitoring the Covid-19 environment for variants and testing its therapies against a "wide array of emerging mutations and variants."

"It has always been our view that additional antibodies from Lilly and others will need to be developed to address the evolution of the virus, including emerging variants that can differ by country or even by state," Eli Lilly said in a statement emailed to CNN on Tuesday.

"In fact, this is what drove our work on bamlanivimab and etesevimab together and continues to underpin our strategy moving forward."

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2111556

Reported Deaths: 53604
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings28079410461
Queens2774949966
Suffolk2011683400
Nassau1837533176
Bronx1836956583
New York1384044508
Westchester1297282291
Erie896041809
Richmond750591840
Monroe690541112
Orange48337843
Rockland46965963
Onondaga38970678
Dutchess29483445
Albany24712357
Oneida22637516
Niagara20045374
Broome18633366
Saratoga15389168
Ulster13916257
Schenectady13207205
Rensselaer11235143
Putnam1062292
Chautauqua8958145
Chemung7774136
Oswego762792
Ontario740893
Steuben6957145
Sullivan667976
St. Lawrence664697
Cayuga633892
Jefferson615568
Wayne578570
Cattaraugus572391
Genesee5437124
Herkimer5193109
Clinton483833
Madison456589
Livingston452460
Fulton442392
Tompkins435052
Montgomery4254127
Columbia4068104
Cortland392963
Tioga383463
Warren366157
Wyoming358453
Allegany355987
Chenango350476
Otsego346347
Greene340579
Washington316255
Orleans312183
Lewis281136
Franklin256312
Delaware238538
Seneca201156
Schoharie169317
Essex159326
Yates117926
Schuyler108014
Hamilton3132
Unassigned10016
Out of NY0250
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