California detects highly contagious COVID variant

The highly contagious coronavirus variant first seen in Britain was detected in California on Wednesday, as hospitals in the state remain on the brink of crisis.

The new variant was confirmed to have been detected in a patient in Southern California, who had no known travel history - suggesting it is spreading in the community.

The discovery comes a day after the first known U.S. case was documented in Colorado.

However, during an online briefing, top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said the variant was not more deadly:

"There is no indication at all that it increases the virulence and by virulence, I mean the ability to make you sick or kill you. It doesn't seem to make it more strong in that regard. In addition, it doesn't seem to evade the protection that's afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines."

The emergence of the variant in the U.S. makes the rollout of vaccines that much more critical.

Thousands of frontline workers have already been inoculated in California, including firefighters who've been providing an ambulance service.

California residents are being urged to stick to restrictions until it's their turn to receive the shot.

Much of the state is under an indefinite stay-at-home order, which was renewed on Tuesday.

But Fauci said that with mass immunisation in the Spring, he expected that life would get back to some semblance of normality by next fall.