New COVID variants are spreading in California. How worried should we be? (2024)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 29. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

  • COVID is rising in California. How to protect yourself from subvariants
  • UCLA and UC Davis workers strike over treatment at pro-Palestinian protests
  • Artists priced out of Los Angeles head to this creative hub in the high desert
  • And here’s today’s e-newspaper


You're reading the Essential California newsletter

Our reporters guide you through our biggest news, features and recommendations every morning

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

How worried should we be about the new COVID variants?

The national COVID-19 emergency ended just over a year ago. Gov. Gavin Newsom terminated California’s emergency orders at the end of February 2023. But coronavirus is still out there — now in more variants and subvariants. The newest ones causing concern are officially known as KP.2, KP.3 and KP.1.1 but have been given the nickname FLiRT (an acronym for the amino acid changes that led to the strains’ mutations).

The latest data show that those subvariants are the dominant COVID family in the U.S., jumping from about 20% of infections a month ago to more than 50%.

State health officials say summer could bring an uptick in cases following a low-transmission spring.


“COVID-19 concentrations in wastewater have suggested increases in several regions across California since early May,” the state Department of Public Health said in a statement last week. “Test positivity for COVID-19 has been slowly increasing since May.”

Health officials won’t be surprised to see increased COVID cases this summer, just as we’ve experienced in previous summers. We travel more, congregate on weekends and holidays and tend to gather inside to escape the heat.

So how worried should we be? The Times’ Rong-Gong Lin II provided some context in his reporting this week:

“Despite their increased transmissibility, the new mutations don’t appear to result in more severe disease. And the vaccine is expected to continue working well, given the new subvariants are only slightly different from the winter version.”

However, because the FLiRT subvariants are more easily transmitted, doctors advise that people at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections take precautions. Those include:

  • Staying up to date on COVID vaccinations
  • Avoiding sick people, some of whom might not know if they have COVID or a cold
  • Masking up in crowded settings
  • Taking Paxlovid (which for many should be easier to get) if infected

The strongest risk factor for severe COVID-19 continues to be age, according to the CDC. People with certain underlying medical conditions — including asthma, cancer, diabetes and serious heart conditions — are also at heightened risk.


“California recently achieved a significant COVID milestone — zero deaths on a single calendar day, April 2, a feat not achieved since the first days of the pandemic,” Rong-Gong noted. That week, he wrote, Los Angeles County also experienced a new record low for deaths — an average of 0.14 a day.

Fewer people are being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19, but health officials say the virus remains deadlier than the flu. And one doctor Rong-Gong spoke to said evidence is mounting that getting COVID more times increases the risks of developing long COVID.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 107,000 Californians have died of COVID-19.

Today’s top stories

Academic workers at UCLA went on strike Tuesday, alleging their rights have been violated by University of California actions during pro-Palestinian protests and encampment crackdowns.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Pro-Palestinian campus unrest:

  • Kaffiyehs and pickets. UCLA and UC Davis workers strike over treatment at pro-Palestinian protests.
  • UC worker strike to hit UCLA and Davis next. A looming question: Is this walkout legal?
  • UC academic workers’ strike begins as pro-Palestinian activism enters new phase.


  • Millions of Americans need drugs like Ozempic. Will it bankrupt the healthcare system?
  • ‘Miracle’ weight-loss drugs could have reduced health disparities. Instead they got worse.
  • Column: Fears about ‘Ozempic babies’ show how woeful U.S. women’s healthcare really is.

Climate and environment:

  • California’s surfboard-mooching sea otter has returned to Santa Cruz for the summer.
  • Sea urchins made to order: Scripps scientists make transgenic breakthrough.
  • Water recycling gets a boost in Southern California with new federal funding.

More big stories:

  • Matthew Perry and the ketamine boom: Expensive, dangerous and very ‘en vogue.’
  • The newest election battlefield for abortion: State supreme courts.
  • A traveler carries measles through LAX as cases rise around the U.S.
  • A lifeguard who took down Pride flags at a Pacific Palisades beach sues L.A. County over religious discrimination.
  • Most Asian Americans think SAT but not race is fair to consider for college admissions.
  • Who else was stealing? Conspiracy plea deepens mystery in San Joaquin Valley water heist.
  • LAPD searches for ‘General Hospital’ actor’s killers, seeks fingerprints, video.
  • OpenAI forms safety and security committee as concerns mount about AI.
  • ‘I’m sorry’: David DePape has been resentenced to 30 years for attack on Pelosi family.
  • Appreciation: Bill Walton embraced a different mindset on personal success and heroes.

Get unlimited access to the Los Angeles Times. Subscribe here.

  • Robin Abcarian: Samuel Alito’s ethical lapse isn’t the Supreme Court’s first. This is why it’s different.
  • Editorial Board: Walmart hasn’t stopped pork suppliers from confining pregnant sows in cruel cages. Time for shareholders to step up.
  • Michael Hiltzik: With Live Nation lawsuit, government says it’s fed up with alleged corporate scofflaws.
  • Editorial Board: MLB finally embraces all of the major leagues. Including the Black ones.
  • Gustavo Arellano: The Democratic civil war behind an Anaheim recall election.


Today’s great reads

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Where does L.A.’s leftover produce go? This group helps get tons to the hungry every day. Food Forward saves nearly 2 million pounds of produce every week. It all started with a slow walk through a Los Angeles neighborhood full of unpicked fruit.

Other great reads:

  • Michael McDonald and Paul Reiser on the importance of forgiveness and the problem with gossip.
  • Jacarandas are blooming now in L.A., but why are some lagging behind the purple party?

How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to

For your downtime

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Going out

  • 🌵Artists priced out of Los Angeles head to this creative hub in the high desert.
  • 🌿🌮 Mi Los Angeles: Celebrities’ favorite Latino owned businesses in L.A.

Staying in

  • 📺 Six little-known series you won’t regret making time for.
  • 🧑‍🍳 Here’s a recipe for orange-blossom yogurt lemon loaf.
  • ✏️ Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games.


And finally ... a great photo

Show us your favorite place in California! We’re running low on submissions. Send us photos that scream California and we may feature them in an edition of Essential California.

Jay 305’s latest EP, “Don’t Wait Until I Die,” made in collaboration with rapper and producer Hit-Boy, takes a page from the deep, oily, enveloping scents that have become his signature.

(Jheyda McGarrell / For The Times)

Today’s great photo is from Times contributor Jheyda McGarrell. Pictured is South-Central rapper Jay 305 at Scent Bar DTLA.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor and Saturday reporter
Christian Orozco, assistant editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

Check our top stories, topics and the latest articles on

New COVID variants are spreading in California. How worried should we be? (2024)


What are the strange symptoms of the latest COVID variant? ›

Unusual COVID-19 symptoms: What are they?
  • Chills or fever.
  • Body aches.
  • New confusion, especially in adults age 65 years or older.
  • Loss of ability to smell, or a lasting bad smell.
  • Chest pain.
  • Being very tired.
2 days ago

How easy does the new COVID variant spread? ›

The main variant in the United States is omicron. This variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the delta variant.

How contagious is the new COVID variant? ›

It only differs by one spike protein from previous strains. The new COVID variant doesn't appear to be more severe than previous strains, but it is likely more contagious or better at evading the immune system.

What are the symptoms of hv 1? ›

1 or HV. 1 usually feel like they have a cold or the flu,” Dr. Cicogna explains. “They might get a sore throat, feel tired or have a headache.

How long are you sick with new Covid variant? ›

Symptoms can continue for days to weeks if you have mild to moderate illness with a COVID-19 infection. Long COVID is a diagnosis that healthcare providers may consider when you have ongoing problems related to your COVID-19 infection for four weeks or more.

How long after exposure to new Covid variant do symptoms appear? ›

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

What helps COVID go away? ›

Many people with COVID-19 get better with rest, fluids and treatment for their symptoms. Medicine you can get without a prescription can help. Some examples are: Fever reducers.

What does the very beginning of COVID feel like? ›

Many people who are infected have more mild symptoms like a scratchy throat, stuffy or runny nose, occasional mild cough, fatigue, and no fever. Some people have no symptoms at all, but they can still spread the disease.” Fever seems to be one of the more common early markers of COVID-19, Kline noted.

What medicine to take for COVID? ›

Medicines to treat COVID-19

Your healthcare professional may suggest certain medicines if you test positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk of serious illness. These medicines keep mild illness from getting worse. They can include nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (Paxlovid), remdesivir (Veklury) or molnupiravir (Lagevrio).

Should we be worried about the new COVID variant? ›

There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time. It is important to note that we will need more data to draw any conclusions about the effect of these mutations on transmissibility and severity of the variant.

How serious is the new COVID strain? ›

While the new strain spreading in the U.S. is not necessarily more deadly, it does appear to be more contagious. “If you come in contact with someone who has this new strain or with the virus on a surface, then you're more likely to become COVID-19-positive,” she says.

How long after exposure to COVID will you test positive? ›

The best time to test—and to ensure that you're going to get an accurate result—is around five days after you've been exposed to the virus, or when you first start experiencing symptoms, explained Dr.

How long does hv1 last? ›

How long do sores from herpes simplex last? If you're infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.

How did I get HSV-1? ›

Transmission. HSV-1 is mainly transmitted via contact with the virus in sores, saliva or surfaces in or around the mouth. Less commonly, HSV-1 can be transmitted to the genital area through oral-genital contact to cause genital herpes.

Can I spread HSV-1 to other parts of my body? ›

Answer: The chance of transmitting the herpes simplex virus (HSV) from physical contact with an active flare-up in one site of the body to infect another site of the body is very low.

What are the symptoms for the latest COVID? ›

Symptoms of COVID-19

a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. shortness of breath. feeling tired or exhausted.

What are the symptoms of the new sub variant of COVID-19? ›

8 Noticeable Symptoms of Omicron Sub-variants of Covid-19
  • Headache, muscle ache, tiredness.
  • Voice changes and phlegm appears.
  • High fever 39°C.
  • Chilly but sweating.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Dry itchy throat, cough.
  • Sore throat, sharp pain in the throat when swallowing saliva.

What are the neurological symptoms of the new COVID-19 variant? ›

Since COVID-19 can affect the nervous system, it can also affect how the brain sends signals to the muscles of the body to coordinate movement. Some people with Long COVID have trouble with coordination (ataxia), loss of movement (bradykinesia), tremor, or sudden muscle twitching or jerking (myoclonus).

What are the symptoms of the new mutation of COVID-19? ›

The version of the Covid-19 virus behind the latest spike in infections shares many of the same symptoms as earlier variants of Sars-CoV-2 : a sore throat, fatigue, headache and a cough. Differences in the symptoms often depend on a person's underlying health and their immune system.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duncan Muller

Last Updated:

Views: 5902

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duncan Muller

Birthday: 1997-01-13

Address: Apt. 505 914 Phillip Crossroad, O'Konborough, NV 62411

Phone: +8555305800947

Job: Construction Agent

Hobby: Shopping, Table tennis, Snowboarding, Rafting, Motor sports, Homebrewing, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Duncan Muller, I am a enchanting, good, gentle, modern, tasty, nice, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.