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Public health officials are closely monitoring the mu variant of the coronavirus now circulating in Los Angeles County, though they say the delta variant remains the greatest cause for concern. 

Labeled as a “variant of interest” on Aug. 30 by the World Health Organization, the mu variant has been identified in 167 cases to date in L.A. County, the county Department of Public Health said in a news release Friday.

“The identification of variants like Mu, and the spreading of variants across the globe, highlights the need for L.A. County residents to continue to take measures to protect themselves and others,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said in a statement.

The mu variant was first identified in Colombia in January 2021. It has since popped up in 39 other countries, the L.A. County officials said. 

Although further studies are needed to determine if the mu variant is more contagious than other COVID-19 strains, it has been found to have key mutations linked to greater transmissibility and the potential to evade antibodies, the department said. 

“This is what makes getting vaccinated and layering protections so important. These are actions that break the chain of transmission and limits COVID-19 proliferation that allows for the virus to mutate into something that could be more dangerous,” Ferrer said. 

However, Ferrer said Thursday that the delta variant still accounts for 99% of all coronavirus cases sequenced in L.A. County.

Currently, there are 1,641 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 27% of them in the ICU. 

The county reported 2,673 new cases and 37 deaths on Friday. 

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends facing the sorrow of losing a loved one to COVID-19.” Ferrer said. 

The Department of Public Health encourages everyone who is eligible — which includes children as young as 12 — to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Vaccination sites across the county, including all the county-run sites, are also offering third doses of vaccine to eligible immunocompromised people. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.  

Visit in English and in Spanish to find a vaccination site near you or call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment, connecting to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or scheduling in-home vaccination if you are homebound.