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SEATTLE (AP) — The first known case of the coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa has surfaced in King County, and 19 additional cases of the variant first found in the UK have been identified, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The variant that emerged in South Africa in December was identified through genomic sequencing at the UW Medicine Virology Laboratory, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

The mutated version of the virus was first found in the United States last month.

The strain first identified in the UK was first found a month ago in Washington state. The additional cases announced Tuesday bring the total number of UK variant cases to 39 in the state, officials said.

Scientists believe both virus strains more easily spread than others.

“Despite the decrease in our case count, we are very concerned about the emergence of these variants and how it will affect future case counts," Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. said in a news release. "As a community, we need to re-double our efforts to prevent the spread of this virus and its variants by following public health guidance.”

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LA County Confirms First Case Of COVID Variant First Detected In Brazil

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Wednesday reported 1,759 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 116 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 1,195,913 cases and 21,669 deaths.

Of the new deaths reported, 32 people were over the age of 80, 39 people were between the ages of 65 and 79, 21 people were between the ages of 50 and 64, eight people were between the ages of 30 and 49 and one person was between the ages of 18 and 29. Long Beach reported 13 deaths and Pasadena added two.

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Public Health also reported a total of 27 known cases of the COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom, one case of the variant first detected in Brazil and 239 cases of the variant first detected here in California. There have been no identified cases of the variant first detected in South Africa in L.A. County.

Health officials also reported that the county’s seven-day average number of cases had decreased to less than 900 per day as of Feb. 23 and daily hospitalizations were averaging about 1,500 — far below peaks experienced in January, but still well above the pre-surge level of roughly 800 daily hospitalizations in early November.

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And while the seven-day average number of daily deaths was continuing to decline from a peak of 254 on Jan. 13, health officials said there were still far too many days with more than 100 deaths reported — much higher than the daily average of 14 reported in early November.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,476 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 31% of whom were being treated in intensive care units.

Public Health also said it was working to increase access to vaccines to eligible residents and workers in the hardest hit communities. These efforts include working with community leaders to make the registration process easier and coordinating with rideshare companies to provide free transport to and from vaccination sites.

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With testing results available for nearly 5,860,000 individuals, the county’s overall positivity rate was holding at 19%, though the daily test positivity rate was 2.6%.

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