Local health officials monitoring for COVID-19 variants

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As Fresno County moves closer to re-opening more businesses, health officials are monitoring the risk that a variant of the COVID-19 virus could pose.

"What we are doing is asking our medical providers to really share any atypical cases that they have with us - for example (people who) got COVID, then got better and then got symptoms of COVID again. That's a red flag for us," says Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

Vohra says samples from those cases could undergo variant testing at a state lab.

"Hopefully in about a month we will be able to do local variant testing - is what our lab directors are telling us," Vohra says.

The health department also plans to look for the variant with a wider lens, using tests across the county.

"We just want to do a baseline testing, with perhaps a 1% sample of all the tests that are happening in our county," Vohra says.

While there's still no data to indicate a variant is currently present in Fresno County, Dr. Kenny Bahn from UCSF Fresno says it's more than likely.

"It's a matter of when not if. People are worried, 'Is it going to come?' It's going to come to other counties and it will come here," says Banh.

Dr. Banh says while some versions of the virus might be more contagious, based on what scientists know now, the way that the public can protect itself is still the same - by wearing a mask and getting the vaccine when it's your turn.

"You shouldn't be fearmongering over it, you should just understand that this is the natural course of the virus," Banh says.
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