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Calif. worries about new COVID-19 strain as U.S. death toll approaches 400,000

By Jean Lotus
Calif. worries about new COVID-19 strain as U.S. death toll approaches 400,000
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 approached 400,000 Monday, as states struggled with shortages of the vaccines.  Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths approached 400,000 Monday, as hard-hit states like California braced for more cases and vaccine supplies were running out in many states.

The death toll for the United States was reported at 398,806 by Monday, according to the online Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.

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Reported daily U.S. cases Monday were 174,513 with 1,723 deaths. The U.S. has reported a total of 24 million cases since the outbreak began.

In Northern California, a new strain of the virus, the L452R variant, first identified in Denmark, was identified by officials to be present in nursing homes, jails and a hospital in San Jose.

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"It's too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus," said Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Dept. of Public Health said in a statement.

"We also urge anyone who has been exposed to the virus to isolate from others to protect themselves and their loved ones," she added.

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Officials on Sunday said the new strain was identified in an outbreak before Christmas at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical that infected 90 people and killed at least one.

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Meanwhile multiple states are running out of COVID-19 vaccine doses. Of a total of more than 31 million doses distributed to the states, only 12,279,180 had been distributed and 10,595,866 people had been vaccinated by Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis on Monday ordered hospitals and other vaccine providers to start using about 40,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that had been held in reserve for second doses and administer them immediately as first doses.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday that 60,000 new first doses would be provided at nine distribution centers for people over 65 and teachers and childcare providers.

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However, patients must sign up online beginning at noon Tuesday and Walz warned the number of doses would be small compared to the estimated 1 million people eligible to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

"This is going to be harder than going to Ticketmaster and ordering Bruce Springsteen tickets," Walz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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