Health department confirms third case of U.K. COVID-19 variant in LA County

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department has confirmed the third case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7.

The variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom.

B.1.1.7 is considered more contagious, but not necessarily more deadly, than the original strain of COVID-19.

This variant was first discovered in September of 2020 and is now widespread in London and Southeast England. LA County health confirmed its first case of the variant on Jan. 16. 

Further information about the third case of the variant was not immediately given. 

RELATED: Second case of COVID-19 variant reported in LA County

The county also reported 256 new deaths related to COVID-19 and 5, 189 positive cases; this brings the county’s total to 1,129,503 cases and 17,308 deaths since the pandemic started nearly a year ago. 

Daily COVID-19 case numbers continue to go down in LA County, but health officials are warning people that cases could surge again if people grow complacent and stop adhering to health restrictions, particularly with the recent reopening of more businesses and with Super Bowl Sunday just days away.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary, warned that although case rates and numbers are falling, they're still "not low.''

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

He noted that prior to the winter surge that began in November, several counties -- including Los Angeles -- were on the verge of emerging from the restrictive "purple'' tier of the state's economic reopening matrix, with daily new case rates dropping to nearly 7 per 100,000 residents. But while numbers are declining, Los Angeles County's adjusted case rate was listed at 38.7 per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday, five times the rate needed to move out of the "purple'' tier.

"It's just a reminder that COVID is still abound in our communities,'' Ghaly said.

"We've got to keep our guard up. How likely is it that we'll see another surge? I think again it comes back to the behaviors and our own sense of personal choices and personal responsibility on this.''

City News Service contributed to this report 

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