Study shows growth of West Coast COVID-19 variant

New research is raising concerns about a West Coast COVID-19 variant that’s already in Washington.

In a study in San Francisco’s Mission District, researchers found more than half of the cases in January were from the growing West Coast variant.

That’s up from 16% of the cases around Thanksgiving.

“There was a rise of about threefold,” said Joe DeRisi, co-president of Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

DeRisi said the West Coast variant is somewhat more contagious, but does not have a higher viral load or lead to more hospitalizations.

“I don’t want to be alarmist, there’s no reason to panic, but it does suggest we need to be vigilant, we need to keep doing what we’re doing and get people vaccinated,” DeRisi said.

An estimate used by the Washington State Department Of Health suggests the West Coast variant makes up 9% of the state’s cases.

“I do think that it’s something that’s meriting more study and more following,” said Dr. Alex Greninger of the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Information is still emerging on the West Coast strain, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not consider to be a “variant of concern” like those originating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.