How worried should we be about new COVID variants?

How worried should we be about new COVID variants?

Good day. Is Wednesday May 29. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

How worried should we be about new COVID variants?

The national emergency of COVID-19 ended a little over a year ago. Governor Gavin Newsom canceled California emergency orders at the end of February 2023. But the coronavirus still exists, now in more variants and subvariants. The newest ones causing concern are officially known as KP.2, KP.3 and KP.1.1, but have been given the nickname FLiRT (a amino acid changes acronym that led to the mutations of the strains).

The most recent data shows those subvariants are the dominant COVID family in the US, rising from about 20% of infections a month ago to more than 50%.

State health officials say the summer could bring a spike in cases after a spring of low transmission.

“COVID-19 concentrations in wastewater have suggested increases in several regions of California since early May,” the state Department of Public Health said in a statement last week. “COVID-19 test positivity has been slowly increasing since May.”

Passengers, with and without masks, at LAX

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Health officials will not be surprised to see an increase in COVID cases this summer, just as we have experienced in previous summers. We travel more, congregate on weekends and holidays, and tend to gather indoors to escape the heat.

So how worried should we be? Rong-Gong Lin II of the Times provided some context in his report this week:

“Despite their greater transmissibility, the new mutations do not appear to cause more severe disease. And the vaccine is expected to continue working well, given that the new subvariants are only slightly different from the winter version.”

However, because FLiRT subvariants are more easily transmitted, doctors recommend that people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 infections take precautions. These include:

  • Stay up to date on COVID vaccines
  • Avoid sick people, some of whom may not know if they have COVID or a cold.
  • Wearing a mask in crowded environments
  • Taking Paxlovid (which for many should be easier to get) if it is infected

The strongest risk factor for severe COVID-19 remains age, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with certain underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and serious heart conditions, are also at higher risk.

“California recently achieved a major COVID milestone: zero deaths on a single calendar day, April 2, a feat that had not been achieved since the early days of the pandemic,” Rong-Gong said. That week, he wrote, Los Angeles County also experienced a new record for deaths: an average of 0.14 per day.

Fewer people are being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19, but health officials say the virus still more deadly than the flu. And a doctor Rong-Gong spoke to said there is growing evidence that getting COVID more times increases the risks of developing long COVID.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 107,000 Californians have died from COVID-19.

Today’s top stories

People hold picket signs

Academic workers at UCLA went on strike Tuesday, claiming their rights had been violated by the University of California’s actions during pro-Palestinian protests and the camp crackdown.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Pro-Palestinian campus riots:


Climate and environment:

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Today’s great reads

A man prepares a pallet of products

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Where do leftover products from Los Angeles go? This group helps deliver tons to the hungry every day.. Food Forward saves nearly 2 million pounds of produce each week. It all started with a slow walk through a Los Angeles neighborhood full of unpicked fruit.

Other great reads:

How can we make this newsletter more useful? send comments to [email protected].

For your downtime

A Joshua Tree frames students at the foundry

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

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And finally… a great photo.

Show us your favorite place in California! We are running out of presentations. Send us photos that scream California and we may feature them in an issue of Essential California.

A man is in a perfume shop.

Jay 305’s latest EP, “Don’t Wait Until I Die,” made in collaboration with rapper and producer Hit-Boy, takes a page from the deep, oily, enveloping aromas that have become his signature.

(Jheyda McGarrell / for The Times)

Today’s great photo is from the Times contributor. Jheyda McGarrell. Pictured is South-Central rapper Jay 305 at Scent Bar DTLA.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team.

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Kevinisha Walker, Multi-Platform Editor and Saturday Reporter
Christian Orozco, assistant editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

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