Scientists in California believe there is a homegrown coronavirus strain in the state that could be responsible for the dramatic rise in cases, a report said on Sunday.

Two separate research groups have discovered the apparent California strain while looking for the new variant that is believed to have come from the United Kingdom, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The supposed California strain is in the same “family tree” as the U.K. strain and could be behind the state’s spread over the past few months, the paper said.

One of the labs that discovered the strain, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said that it amounted to 24 percent of about 4,500 viral samples gathered throughout California in the last weeks of 2020.

Another analysis found that 25 percent of 332 samples taken in Northern California were of the new strain.

An image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus seen in an electron microscope.
An image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus seen in an electron microscope.
AP

“There was a homegrown variant under our noses,” Dr. Charles Chiu, a laboratory medicine specialist at University of California, San Francisco, told the newspaper.

Chiu said that they only found the strain when searching for the UK variant.

Dr. Eric Vail, a pathologist at Cedars Sinai, said the strain could be responsible for doubling the state’s total death toll in the space of less than three months.

“It probably helped to accelerate the number of cases around the holiday season,” Vail said.

“But human behavior is the predominant factor in the spread of a virus, and the fact that it happened when the weather became colder and in the midst of the holidays when people gather is not an accident.”

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