Expert warns new COVID variant sweeping world found in CA


SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – We may not be hearing weekly reports on COVID-19 infection and mortality rates like previous years, but deaths are still occurring across the United States.

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Those most at risk are people over 60 and the immunocompromised.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist, professor and associate dean for regional campuses at UCSF, shed some light on a new coronavirus variant sweeping the world on KCBS Radio's "As Prescribed."

The variant, dubbed Arcturus, was first identified in January. It's responsible for an increase of cases in India and has been found in more than 30 countries. An interesting symptom attributed to the virus is conjunctivitis.

"In the United States and California we've seen it and we're paying attention to it because in early April it was about less than 2% of cases, now it's about 10% of cases," Chin-Hong said. "Anytime we see something increase as fast as Arcturus is doing, we're paying attention."

The UCSF professor was quick to provide context for the recent increase, noting that Arcturus' rise comes amid a record low for cases, hospitalizations and deaths during the pandemic.

People over the age of 65 and the immunocompromised over the age of 5 are encouraged to receive an additional booster to help fight this new wave. "You can get it as frequently as every two months depending on how immune-compromised you are," Chin-Hong said.

Around 250 people are dying each day due in the United States to COVID-19, a vast majority of which are individuals over 70 and the immunocompromised.

"In that group, immunity wanes faster than other groups," Chin-Hong explained. "In some immune-compromised individuals, they can't even mount a good immune response."

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