SAN CLEMENTE, CA — A San Clemente man has tested positive for the highly contagious U.K. strain of coronavirus, making this the first case in Orange County, the Health Care Agency reported Monday.
On Jan. 26, the 21-year-old tested positive for the strain, Dr. Clayton Chau said in a memo to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
The San Clemente resident has no history of international travel and was not believed to be part of a larger outbreak, according to Chau.
His identity was not disclosed due to health regulations, still, health care workers are tracing his close contacts "to see if they have any evidence of infection," Chau says.
The State Department of Public Health informed Orange County Health Care over the weekend, as the man had recently been to Big Bear, where the strain was also detected.
It is not yet known how he contracted the U.K. strain of coronavirus. He is one of 150 cases identified in California, with the majority of cases in San Diego, Chau says.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said he was "more worried about the South African variant, which seems to be more virulent and it's been reported that the AstraZenica vaccine is not as effective" in combating it.
The Brazilian strain has also been detected in the U.S., Chau noted in his memo.
"All of these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly, more contagious, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19," Chau told City News Service.
Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service that public health professionals assumed the new strain was already present in the area.
The "only thing surprising is it took until now" to be detected, he said.
"We've known for weeks the same strain was in San Diego and L.A. And if it's in San Diego and L.A., then do the math. It's here," he said.
It's possible there could be a March wave of coronavirus cases, Noymer said.
He said the South African strain is "worrisome because it seems to evade some of the vaccines." The vaccines work on the U.K. strain, and according to Noymer" so it's just a matter of making it a priority that we vaccinate as much as we can before it takes hold—as much as we can as fast as we can."
City News Service contributed to this report.