California COVID-19 variant identified in Lane County

This is the first lab-confirmed examples of a COVID-19 variant in the county, but variants have been identified in other parts of the state.

Posted: Mar 2, 2021 10:53 AM
Updated: Mar 2, 2021 6:12 PM

EUGENE, Ore. – The “California” variant of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in Lane County, public health announced on Tuesday.

Officials said the presence of the variant was detected in samples submitted to the University of Oregon Genomics and Cell Characterization Core Facility (GC3F).

This is the first lab-confirmed examples of a COVID-19 variant in the county, but variants have been identified in other parts of the state.

UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis weighed in.

“The work being done is part of a natural progression for top-tier research institutions, such as the University of Oregon,” Jarvis said. “It is also the next phase in what the university is offering to support public health efforts in Lane County and the state of Oregon.”

Lane County Senior Public Health Officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke said that viral variants are common.

“Just think of what we endure each year with the influenza virus,” Luedtke said. “That virus always mutates and always changes. It turns out much more so than the COVID-19 virus but those changes require us to make a new vaccine virtually every year. It’s normal for viruses to mutate.”

Luedtke said that the variant appears to be homegrown in the US and likely in California.

“If you look at the evolution of viruses, we have a way of tracking them back based upon other variants seen at the same time,” Luedtke said.

Officials said there is not enough chart review to draw definitive conclusions.

“It appears that there’s the possibility of increased transmission and perhaps increased severity, but we just don't know for sure,” Luedtke said. “What we do know so far is that our current vaccines will work.”

He said the county is fortunate to have sequencing done locally.

Jarvis said the GC3F staff began investigating how it can contribute to the state and national efforts in tracking these variants.

“After also preparing materials to perform the genetic sequencing, GC3F took de-identified positive coronavirus samples collected through the university’s response efforts to perform a pilot study,” Jarvis said. “It is through this pilot that samples positive with the California variant B.1.429 were identified. The G3CF lab has now proven its capabilities in gene sequencing, and it’s ready to provide these services to support public health initiatives as resources are made available. For the UO, detection of the variant does not change proactive testing and tracing strategies.”

Today, health officials reported 23 new cases, for a total of 10,320 confirmed and presumptive cases. Nearly 6% of the county’s residents have been fully vaccinated.

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