US: California first state to pass 50,000 virus deaths
With grim milestone, COVID-19 death toll in Golden State stands at 50,972
California on Thursday became the first US state to pass 50,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The death toll stood at 50,972 in the Golden State, while 505,890 people have lost their lives in the US since the start of the pandemic.
While California has seen more than 3.5 million infections, the entire US has seen 28.3 million cases since the beginning.
California, which has a population of less than 40 million, saw over 9,700 deaths during the months of December and January.
"It is heartbreaking to report on this large number of additional deaths associated with Covid-19 and a devastating reminder of the terrible toll the winter surge has taken on so many families across the county," Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
While there are 1,881 reported cases in 45 US states of the UK variant B.1.1.7, 46 cases of the South African B.1.351 strain have been seen in 10 states, and the P.1 variant that emerged in Brazil has been seen in five cases in two states, according to the latest data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New strain prevalent
Though it emerged relatively recently in California, over the last five months a new strain of the virus has become the dominant variant in the Golden State, according to research.
The new strain now makes up more than half of the infections in 44 counties across California.
The prevalence of a coronavirus lineage “characterized by the L452R substitution and two other mutations in the virus’s spike protein has significantly increased in recent months," the University of California San Francisco said in a statement on Monday.
The research showed that the L452R variant represented 53% of the positive test samples collected on Jan. 10-27 among a total of 8,846 people.
The variant "appears to be higher than other rates" that have been measured within the US and globally, Joe DeRisi of the nonprofit research organization CZ Biohub said in the statement.
"There is an urgent need for research to better understand the implications for transmissibility, and for continued genomic sequencing and surveillance to understand the variants’ prevalence, reach, and spread," he added.
Out of 88.6 million distributed doses of vaccines in the US, 66.4 million have been administered as of 6 a.m. EDT (1100GMT) Wednesday, but only 20.6 million people, or 6.2% of the US population, have gotten two doses, according to the CDC.