SoCal seeing drop in COVID-19 cases, but new variants, vaccine supply remain concerns

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Case numbers, hospitalizations and other key COVID-19 metrics are dropping across the board in California.

But they're still not as low as they were before the fall and winter surge.

The state reported 12,064 new cases Tuesday, with an additional 422 deaths.

Los Angeles County reported 3,763 new cases, along with 205 new deaths. The county has now passed 17,000 deaths from the virus.

Hospitalizations are down almost 30% over the last 14 days and ICU capacity continues to move in a positive direction.

Still, new cases and infections remain higher than they were during last summer's surge and 54 of California's 58 counties remain in the most restrictive, purple tier for limits on activities.

The region is also seeing new variants in the coronavirus that are considered more contagious, one known as the West Coast variant and another as the UK variant.

"The variants of course create another wild card, another unknown," ," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency. "Those that are more infectious because they bind to the human cell a little more and get into our cells and begin to replicate and make people sick or at least able to transmit the virus - those are real concerns."

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said it remains to be seen how effective the current vaccines are against the new variants.

"So far they are working," Davis said. "For some of the variants it's not as effective, but that doesn't mean it's not effective."

CVS pharmacy locations are expected to start offering vaccinations to qualified individuals starting Feb. 11, depending on the availability of supply. If enough is available, people who meet the state's eligibility requirements can start making appointments next week.

A state of California website allows members of the public to sign up for notifications when they might be eligible to receive the vaccine and then schedule an appointment.
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