Pasadena Public Heath Department gives Pasadena firefighters the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Fire Station 36 in Pasadena on December 28, 2020. Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed 256 new deaths and 9,277 new cases of confirmed COVID-19. To date, Public Health has identified 1,054,802 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 14,894 deaths. 

New cases are considerably lower this week, with a decrease of 30 percent in the seven-day average of daily cases from last week. The test positivity rate has also dropped.

As of yesterday, L.A. County and our many partners had administered more than 441,000 doses of vaccine, including more than 352,000 first doses and more than 88,000 second doses. 

Last weekend, Public Health reported the first confirmed sample of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County. Public Health continues to test samples for this and other known variants. It’s important to remember that viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.  The U.K. variant, which scientists have labeled as B117, has emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. Experts believe this variant can spread at least 50 percent faster, meaning it’s more transmissible, but there is no evidence it can cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. Experts predict this variant could be dominant in the U.S. by March.

The other variant Public Health is monitoring is known as the Denmark variant, or what experts have labeled as L452R. What is not known at this point is whether it is more transmissible, but there is concern about its mutations. This variant is in California and is beginning to show up in a lot more samples, according to one independent analysis.