Los Angeles County has confirmed its first case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant found in the UK, on the same day it became the first in the country to surpass one million total infections.   

The LA County Department of Public Health on Saturday announced the troubling news which comes as California’s health care system continues to grapple with record high hospitalizations, cases and deaths. 

The state is now the epicenter of the pandemic, with LA suffering the worst of the outbreak as intensive care units are over capacity and some hospitals being forced to erect emergency tents outside in order to treat those seeking care. 

Adding to the health crisis is the discovery of the B.1.1.7 variant that health officials said has been detected in a male who had recently spent time in LA and later traveled to Oregon, where he is currently isolating.  

The virus sample was identified as suspicious by a clinical laboratory, sequenced by University of Washington Virology, and confirmed by LA County.

Los Angeles became the first county in the US to surpass one million total COVID-19 cases on Saturday. Pictured: A healthcare worker tends to a coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center

Los Angeles also recorded it first confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant found in the UK that has now made its way to 17 states. 

Although it is the first confirmed case of the strain in the area, health officials said they believe it is already spreading in the community and are continuing to test samples.     

The mutant virus strain had already been detected in other parts of California including San Bernardino County as well as in 16 other states.  

The variant, which is said to be 70 per cent more transmissible, is one of three different mutant strains that have recently emerged in countries around the world, including Brazil and South Africa. 

While the variant is more infectious, scientist say there is no evidence to suggest that it is more fatal.  

‘The presence of the UK variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized,’ Dr Barbara Ferrer,  LA County Director of Public Health, said on Saturday.

‘Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer. 

‘This more contagious variant makes it easier for infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in our homes. We are in the midst of a public health emergency so please do everything you can to protect yourselves and those you love,’ she added. 

The US reported 215,449 new cases on Saturday, a slight drop from the 243,996 logged on Friday

Hospitalizations remain high across the country, with 7,597 people currently receiving inpatient care for the coronavirus, and 22 per cent of those patients in the ICU. However, weekly average data shows those measures are beginning to decline overall

It comes as Los Angeles also became the first county in the US to hit more than one million total COVID-19 cases after reporting 14,669 new infections on Saturday. The county also recorded 253 new deaths, bringing its death toll to 13,741. 

Hospitalizations remain high as well, with 7,597 people currently receiving inpatient care for the coronavirus, and 22 per cent of those patients in the ICU.   

But even with the grim prognosis in Los Angeles, the number of cases and hospitalizations are appearing to slow down on a national level, new data shows. 

The US reported 215,449 new cases on Saturday, a slight drop from the 243,996 logged on Friday.

There were also 3,695 deaths recorded, meaning the overall death toll is now approaching 400,000. 

There are currently 126,139 people currently hospitalized in the United States with 23,524 in intensive care. 

The latest case and hospitalization numbers remain at high levels, however both measures have leveled off across the country in the past few days, according to The COVID Tracking Project.     

Cases have dropped most significantly in the Midwest, with the region reporting the lowest number of infections in proportion to their population. 

Data shows that the west of the country is still reporting the highest number of cases, with an outsize number of those coming from California and, in particular, Los Angeles County.   

According to The COVID-19 Tracking Project, the 7-day averages for cases are declining in all four regions

It appears coronavirus hospitalizations are also slowly declining overall, although several areas are still overwhelmed by incoming patients

According to modelling done by the University of Washington, an additional 170,000 Americans are likely to die from the coronavirus by the end of April. This would take the total above 565,000 deaths, according to CNN.  

There are also fears for that the highly-contagious UK strain of the coronavirus, dubbed ‘Super COVID’ is spreading rapidly through America. 

While Super COVID is not thought to be more deadly that other variants of the virus, the first American citizen succumbed to the strain in Houston over the weekend.  

And on Friday, health officials in Utah revealed that their first case of strain has been confirmed in a man who had not traveled out of the state.  

Super COVID has been detected in New York, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan.

Michigan health officials on Saturday confirmed a woman from Washtenaw County had tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, the first case in the state.

The woman had recently traveled to the UK, where the variant was first detected and is now running rampant.

On Friday, the CDC reported that just 12 million doses have been administered to Americans across the country. However, cities such as Los Angeles are now opening large scale vaccination sites. Pictured: motorists lining up to receive their shot at Dodger Stadium 

The growing cases makes the need to distribute the vaccines all the more pressing – but the roll-out continues to lag.

Infection disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said President-Elect Biden’s plan to dole out 100million coronavirus doses in 100 days is ‘doable’ and the goal is ‘quite feasible.’ 

Biden unveiled the ambitious goal Thursday as part of his $1.9trillion ‘American Rescue Plan,’ which includes about $400billion to tackle COVID-19.

The 100million dose in 100 days target is a dramatic increase from where the US currently stands in terms of vaccinations. 

Despite having more than 31.1million doses of the vaccine available across the country, as of Friday morning, only about 12.2million shots have actually been administered, the CDC said.   

Fauci said in an interview with Today that the vaccine rollout has ‘not worked as smoothly as possible.’

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that President-Elect Biden’s goal of giving out 100million vaccination doses in 100 days is ‘quite feasible’ 

Fauci noted that the CDC widen its guidelines of who is eligible for priority vaccinations will help achieve this goal. A woman is show getting a COVID vaccination on January 10 

He noted that distributing the vaccine during the holiday season accounted for some of the difficulty, as did the fact that there was too much rigidity in terms of prioritizing who had been allowed to get the vaccine. 

Now, he said, there is flexibility being allowed in the prioritization of who can receive doses, which will enable the doses to be given out when available, rather than being left in the fridge.  

President-elect Biden has pledged to accelerate the vaccine roll-out by setting up better communication between state and federal governments. 

‘Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the federal government will provide regular projections of the allocations states and localities will receive,’ a statement from Biden’s transition team, obtained by CNN, read. 

‘The federal government will build on the operational plans in place to ensure the effective distribution, storage, and transit of vaccines to states, including support for maintaining or augmenting the vaccine-specific required cold chain.’ 

Meanwhile, Rick Bright, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, told the news network: ‘We want to open the floodgates on vaccination and make sure everyone who wants to get vaccinated can do so as quickly as possible.

‘It’s going to take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, and we’re going to do as much as we can as fast as we can.’

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