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By Shawn Raymundo

Orange County’s health office confirmed on Monday, Feb. 8, that a San Clemente man recently tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19, the first known case in Orange County of what health officials believe to be more a contagious strain of the virus.

In a memo to the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s health officer and director of the OC Health Care Agency, said the man, a 21-year-old from San Clemente, had tested positive for the variant on Jan. 26 and that “his symptoms have now resolved.”

“He has no history of international travel. He is no part of a larger outbreak,” Chau wrote, also explaining that he had first received word of the variant in Orange County by the state’s Public Health Department over the weekend.

The UK strain, or B.1.1.7, is known to spread “more easily and quickly” compared to other variants, and was first recorded in the U.S. this past December. Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chau said Florida leads the nation in reported cases of the UK variant.

In Florida, there were 187 reported cases by this past weekend, with California not far behind with 150 cases, Chau said in the memo. Most of those cases in the state have been recorded in San Diego.

According to Chau, there are four other variants that have emerged in the U.S. over the past few months, including the California strain (L452R) and the South African variant (B1.351). And two others have come from Brazil—P.1 and P.2—which contain “a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies.”

Chau warned that those strains, like the UK variant, “seem to spread more easily and quickly” and are “more contagious, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.”

He stressed that the use of face coverings and masks, and continuing to practice social distancing, are effective in curbing the spread of the viruses.

County officials, Chau wrote on Monday, were working to test the San Clemente man’s close contacts to determine whether there has been evidence of infection.

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