UC Berkeley records 1st cases of COVID-19 variant strain from UK

Photo of RSF testing center
Gisselle Reyes/File
According to a press release by Berkeley News, two students tested positive for a COVID-19 variant strain from the United Kingdom. The cases were connected, and both students recently arrived in Berkeley from abroad, the press release states.

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Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases on campus and across the state of California, UC Berkeley announced Thursday that two students tested positive for the coronavirus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom.

The announcement follows an Alameda County report of six confirmed or suspected cases of the variant, including one of the two campus cases, for a total of 133 reported cases of the variant statewide as of press time. According to a Berkeley News press release, both students recently arrived from abroad, and the two cases were connected. Neither student had been on campus apart from testing purposes, the release added.

“With more viruses circulating, emerging strains that are more transmissible will tend to dominate,” said Anna Harte, University Health Services medical director, in the press release. “What is more concerning is whether they may become resistant to our vaccines, and how lethal they are.”

As of press time, UC Berkeley recorded a total of 213 cases in the past week, of which 52 were reported since the beginning of February.

Campus efforts to sequence positive COVID-19 samples also identified a case of reinfection in January, according to the press release. The individual tested positive for a new variant of the virus discovered in California after testing positive in July 2020 for a different variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The press release noted that students should heed public health precautions and continue to wear masks, wash their hands and follow social distancing protocols.

“There are more variants out there and there are a lot more people with COVID-19 out there,” said Stacia Wyman, senior genomics scientist at UC Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute, in the press release. “It is really important now, when we are trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible, that we slow down the virus as much as we can and give the vaccine a chance to work.”

Check back for updates.

Aditya Katewa is a deputy news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.