A San Bernardino resident is the first California case of the P.1 “Brazilian” variant of the novel coronavirus. County health officials urge residents to be as vigilant as ever about wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding contact with people outside of their households, and getting tested often to prevent the transmissions of all variants, along with getting vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

The California Department of Public Health alerted the county to the case on March 13 after it was detected in a positive test sample collected on March 2.  The variant was detected by Fulgent Genetics (FLGT) using Fulgent’s next-generation sequencing-based COVID-19 test. County contact tracers have been in contact with the resident, a man in his 40s, since March 3. He reported experiencing symptoms and that he is self-isolating at home. County health officials are continuing to investigate how the resident might have been exposed to the variant. He has not been vaccinated.

“We are taking immediate and aggressive action to contact trace and contain the virus and working with the CDPH in expanding whole genomic sequencing to identify more cases,” said County Health Officer Dr. Michael S. Sequeira. “Slowing the spread of the disease and minimizing the spread of all variants is doable with contact tracing, strategic quarantine with masking and social distancing, and most importantly vaccination.”

The P.1 variant, discovered in Brazil in January, is believed to be more contagious than the most-common strain of the virus. There is no evidence yet that the variant leads to harsher cases of COVID-19. It is not yet clear whether the variant is more resistant to vaccines.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in Brazil, where it showed 0% mortality and 85% success in preventing hospitalizations and severe infections,” Sequeira said.

Safe practices are more important than ever now that the State has moved the county from the highly restrictive purple tier of the State Blueprint for a Safer Economy to the less-restrictive red tier. The county’s key coronavirus metrics are moving quickly toward qualifying the county for even more-lenient orange tier.

“If we can contain this and continue vaccinating, we will continue to move forward,” Dr. Sequeira said. “If we complete the vaccination effort, at maximum pace and urgency, we will contain and virtually eliminate this and other variants.”