HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. – Health officials announced Thursday they have identified a never-before-seen COVID-19 variant in Humboldt County.
Public Health officials said current evidence suggests it was contained to a single outbreak and there is no sign it has spread to the broader community. The new variant was traced to an outbreak at the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Facility in Eureka, said health officials.
"In late January, Humboldt County Public Health said they submitted dozens of samples from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Facility, along with dozens of random samples from the Humboldt County Public Health Lab (PHL), for routine genomic surveillance. Genomic sequencing of the samples was conducted by Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), a nonprofit medical research organization that has been responsible for about 45% of the genomic surveillance in California."
Senior Biosecurity Fellow at CZ Biohub Dr. Patrick Ayscue said, “Mutation is a natural feature of viruses, so it is not unexpected that we will see variants occasionally arise in outbreaks.” Dr. Ayscue went on to say, “What is pretty remarkable here is Humboldt County Public Health was in a position to identify a new and potentially dangerous variant, contain it and successfully stop it before it had the opportunity to spread more broadly. It’s really a credit to the hard work of local public health and their partners."
Health officials said they have been collaborating with CZ Biohub since June 2020, and the nonprofit has sequenced more than 650 samples from Humboldt County, accounting for approximately 22% of total cases.
PHL Laboratory Manager Dr. Jeremy Corrigan said, “After we package and send the samples, our teams work together to analyze the sequencing data and identify any variants of concern. Sequencing also provides a measure of quality control because we can monitor for mutations that could impact the effectiveness of the PCR test we utilize,” referring to the polymerase chain reaction test used by the PHL. Dr. Corrigan noted that these kinds of partnerships are a great opportunity to leverage expertise and resources to better understand local COVID-19 conditions.
Health officials are urging residents to continue wearing a mask when in public, continue socially distancing, and washing your hands regularly.