Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, recorded almost 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in one week as the disease is "running rampant", local health officials said on Thursday.
Although the variant does not appear to make people sicker, it spreads more easily, which could result in more infections, and with them, additional hospitalizations in a region hit hard by the surge.
Health authorities said it expects the variant to have spread in the community. "We are in the midst of a public health emergency so please do everything you can to protect yourselves and those you love", Ferrer finished.
The strain has been found in surrounding areas including San Diego and San Bernardino.
"Officials have long believed that testing only captures a certain percentage of those who are infected because many with the virus don't show symptoms or suffer only mild symptoms", the Times article said. Three days later, a nurse in Queens, New York, became the first in the USA to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The county also recorded its first confirmed case of the UK COVID-19 variant strain known as B.1.1.7.
To date, about 5.22 million people have been tested for the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
The health department reported 14,669 new cases on Saturday (Jan 16), bringing the total to just over one million.
By all accounts, Los Angeles and its surrounding areas have consistently had some of the strictest - if not the strictest - lockdown measures in the country. Still, its death rate of 1.4% is the lowest among the five biggest USA counties by fatalities.
There are 7,498 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County on Sunday. About 23% of hospitalized patients are in intensive care.
The outbreak has also taken a toll on its economy. Officials say that dip could be a sign that infections are starting to fall after a post-holiday surge.
It is estimated that more than 3 million residents in the county have been infected with the COVID-19, The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday, citing new estimates by county scientists.
Kings County added 23 more deaths in its most recent update - raising the total there to 133 - to account for fatalities that occurred from December 5 through January 6, "during which time the state was experiencing issues" with CalREDIE, the state's disease registry system.