A new variant of the coronavirus, potentially more contagious, was found in a Colorado man who hadn’t traveled, raising a number of questions about how the first U.S. case of the new version surfaced in the state of Rocky Mountain.
The new variant was first identified in England, and infections are now increasing in the UK, where hospital numbers of COVID-19 patients have passed the first peak of the outbreak in the spring. The new variant has also been found in several other countries, including Canada.
Colorado officials were expected to provide more details at a press conference Wednesday about how the man in his twenties got on the variant from a mostly rural, rolling plains area on the edge of the Denver subway area. The man is isolated southeast of Denver in Elbert County.
At the moment, the variant is likely still rare in the US, but the lack of travel history in the first case means it is spreading, likely by travelers from the UK in November or December, said Trevor Bedford, who studies the spread of COVID- 19 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
“Now I’m worried that because of the variant there will be another spring wave,” said Bedford. “It’s a race with the vaccine, but now the virus has gotten a little faster.”
Public health officials are investigating other potential cases of the variant that have been confirmed by the Colorado State Laboratory and are conducting contact tracing to determine its spread.
Scientists in the UK believe the variant is more contagious than those previously identified – although they haven’t found any evidence that it’s more deadly or causes more serious illness. Experts also believe that the vaccines now being administered against the variant will be effective.
The US has seen more than 19.5 million cases of COVID-19 and has seen more than 338,000 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracking tool.
In hard-hit California, the state’s chief health officer said Los Angeles County hospitals were turning to “emergency care” and preparing for the coronavirus surge to worsen in the new year.
Dr. Mark Ghaly’s comment came Tuesday as he extended strict home stays in areas where intensive care units have few beds.
A health care worker scans patients in an oxygen tent outside the Huntington Park Community Hospital emergency room during a surge in positive coronavirus cases in California. (Bing Guan / Reuters)
Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley have virtually no intensive care capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, Ghaly said. He says that some overwhelmed hospitals have no place to unload ambulances or provide oxygen to patients who cannot breathe.
The state’s “crisis management” guidelines allow treatment to be rationed when staff, medication and supplies are scarce.
California reported more than 31,000 new coronavirus infections and 242 deaths on Tuesday. Almost 25,000 people in the state have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
What’s happening across Canada?
During the pandemic in Scarborough, Ontario on Tuesday, people protested outside the Tendercare Living Center long-term care facility. The nursing home was hit hard by the coronavirus during the second wave. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)
Ontario reported 2,923 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, another daily high in the province.
The update comes after Ontario’s finance minister comes under fire for traveling to the Caribbean for a vacation. Rod Phillips said in a statement Tuesday evening that he left for a trip to St. Barts on December 13, after the end of the legislature.
Ontario, which was banned on December 26, advises against non-essential travel.
Premier Doug Ford said in a statement that he told Phillips that his decision to travel was “totally unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again – by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus”.
“I also told the minister that I needed him back in the country immediately.”
CLOCK | The minister’s trip outside of Canada “totally unacceptable,” says Ford:
Phillips said in his statement that he deeply regrets traveling over the holidays.
“It was a mistake and I apologize,” his testimony said. “I am making arrangements to return to Ontario immediately and will be in a 14-day quarantine as soon as I arrive.”
The Ontario Treasury Secretary isn’t the only politician criticized for vacation travel. Quebec liberal MNA Pierre Arcand apologizes after his trip to Barbados.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:
As of Wednesday morning, the COVID-19 case count in Canada was 565,506, with 72,271 of those cases considered active. A CBC News list of deaths stood at 15,378.
Quebec, the hardest-hit province in the country, reported 2,381 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a new daily high.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:20 am ET
What is happening around the world?
A worker locks down an outdoor gym to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Seoul on Wednesday. (Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters)
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 82 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded worldwide, with more than 46.4 million cases recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll approached 1.8 million.
in the EuropeThe UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University to fight a winter tide caused by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.
The UK government said it had accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) to issue an emergency permit. In the European Union, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has now required additional data before it can approve the vaccine.
In the meantime, lockdown measures in England are expanding to address the rapidly growing number of cases of the new variant of COVID-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC television.
The German authorities have for the first time since. More than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths reported in one day
The pandemic started.
The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Wednesday that 1,129 deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours. This exceeds the record of 962 set a week ago and brings the death toll in Germany to 32,107.
Physical distancing guidelines will be displayed near a ski slope in Winterberg, Germany, on Tuesday. (Leon Kuegeler / Reuters)
While delayed reporting of statistics on holidays and weekends is often a problem in Germany, the most recent figure reflects a current pattern of high deaths.
Switzerland has documented five cases of a coronavirus variant from Great Britain and two cases of a South African variant, an official from the Swiss Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.
By doing Middle East, The United Arab Emirates broke its one-day record of new coronavirus infections. 1,723 cases were recorded on Wednesday.
By doing Asia Pacific Region, the coronavirus situation in Tokyo is quite severe and the Japanese capital could potentially be exposed to an “explosion” of COVID-19 cases, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said ahead of the New Year holidays.
Thailand has reported 250 new coronavirus cases, including 241 local transmissions, as the country grapples with an increasing outbreak.
Devotees pray while in marked areas at a shrine to the Hindu god Ganesh outside a shopping mall in Bangkok on Tuesday to physically distance themselves. (Gemunu Amarasinghe / The Associated Press)
Two large clusters have developed in Thailand since mid-December. Mainly hundreds of migrant workers from Myanmar were infected in a fish market near Bangkok. And for the past few days a cluster has been linked to a gambling den in an eastern province.
Australian authorities curtailed movement and tightened restrictions on gatherings in Sydney in hopes of avoiding a coronavirus super-spreader event during the city’s New Years Eve celebrations.
in the AfricaNigeria faces oxygen supply challenges when treating coronavirus patients in parts of the country and unacceptable delays in the laboratory as case numbers soar to its highest level within a week, health officials said Tuesday.
The new warnings from Nigerian officials come when the resurgent virus hits much of the world, causing more cases and hospitalizations.
“The chain for supplying our medical facilities with medical oxygen across the country is currently under review,” said Boss Mustapha, chairman of the Nigerian Coronavirus Task Force, citing the capital Abuja as a problem area.
By doing AmericaPanama has signed agreements with four manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines to purchase a total of 5.5 million doses, enough for 80 percent of the population.
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:25 PM ET