Michelle Goldson, RN works inside the ICU at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital on December 17, 2020 in Los Angeles. Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County is now testing for a new and more transmissible strain of the coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The county has seen a massive surge in cases in recent weeks. 

The new strain was first discovered in the UK. Experts said there hasn’t been any indication that the new strain could cause more severe illness. 

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As coronavirus cases surge in Los Angeles County, officials are now working to test samples for the new and more transmissible strain of coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

On Thursday, the county saw over 13,600 new cases and set a record for new deaths with 148 confirmed. 

Earlier this week, a new strain of the coronavirus was discovered in the United Kingdom.

The new strain could be as much as 70% more transmissible, the UK’s health minister Matt Hancock said. 

Public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have said it’s likely that the new strain is already in the US. 

“I would not be surprised if it’s already here,” Fauci said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “When we start to look for it, we’re going to find it.”

However, some experts said there is no indication the new strain causes more severe disease or is more deadly. 

Barbara Ferrer, LA County public health director said a laboratory began gene sequencing to test virus samples, but results won’t be available for around a week. 

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new variant could factor into why there’s been such a high spread of the virus. Many experts and public health officials have said that the spread is in part mostly due to families defying public health guidelines to meet up during the holidays. 

“This happened devastatingly quickly,” Garcetti told the Times. “Everybody I talked to said this acceleration was beyond any model and any expectation, so then people say ‘What broke down?’ and I’ve got to think it’s partly the strain that was out there.”

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The Times also reported that the LA County Public Health Department also sent out a memo on Thursday to aks labs to look over recent data from positive coronavirus tests to look out for a specific gene detection pattern. 

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also announced that travelers flying to the US from the UK will have to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their flight. They stopped short of an outright ban on travel, as some other countries have. 

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