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COVID is rising in California. Here's how to protect yourself from FLiRT subvariants

Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

There are growing signs of an uptick in COVID-19 in California thanks to the new FLiRT subvariants.

It's far too early to know if FLiRT will be a major change in the COVID picture, and so far the impacts have been small.

But health officials are taking note and are urging Californians — especially those at risk — to be prepared.

Here's rundown of what we know and how you can protect yourself.

What are FLiRT subvariants?

The FLiRT subvariants — officially known as KP.2, KP.3 and KP.1.1 — have overtaken the dominant winter variant, JN.1. For the two-week period that ended Saturday, they were estimated to account for a combined 50.4% of the nation's coronavirus infections, up from 20% a month earlier.


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.

"It's been quite a while since we've had a new dominant variant in the U.S.," Dr. David Bronstein, an infectious diseases specialist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California told The Times earlier this month. "With each of these variants that takes over from the one before it, we do see increased transmissibility — it's easier to spread from person to person. So, that's really the concern with FLiRT."

What are officials seeing?

Doctors say they are not seeing a dramatic jump in severely ill people, and COVID levels still remain relatively low. But there are signs of a rise in infections that could lead to the summer coronavirus season beginning earlier than expected.


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