Researchers are studying two new COVID variants

Photo courtesy of Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash), Unsplash

For the past weeks, scientists have been analyzing two new variants of the coronavirus propagating throughout the country. 

A virus mutation known as the B.1.526 has been identified in New York City. The B.1.427 or B.1.429 strain also appeared in California. 

Researchers have found an increase in patients affected by the new strains. Over 39% of analyzed cases were revealed  to be the B.1.526 mutation, an increase from 31% two weeks ago. The B.1.1.7 mutation (UK coronavirus variant) saw its percentage rise from 8% to 12% last week. 

B.1.526’s higher transmission rate than B.1.17,  which was the most infectious variant, has caused New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi’s statement that mentioned the new strain being a “more infectious variant”. 

Even with such blood-curdling news, scientists have also identified a positive aspect of the New York variant. New York City Mayoral Advisor, Dr. Jay Varma stated that despite its higher rate of transmission, the B.1.427 “does not appear to cause more serious illness or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.”

The B.1.427/B.1429  (or the California coronavirus strain), on the other hand, was associated with greater mortality and infection of severe disease rates. However, medical researchers have also revealed that the virus mutation was slightly less transmissible than the N501Y COVID strain (one of the seventeen virus mutations of B.1.1.7). 

One can argue that B.1.1.7 and its mutations are less transmissible than B.1.526, but more likely to propagate more individuals than B.1.427. This analysis indicates that the New York strain has the highest rate of transmission among the three coronavirus mutations. 

Rising percentages of people infected with the three COVID variants certainly poses a concern, but it is also necessary to understand the whole scenario.

Daily cases throughout the country have been declining since Jan. 11. The detection of the New York and California virus strains in late February did cause a rise in daily cases, but it has reversed within a few days. Throughout the past few weeks, daily cases across the United States continue to decrease. 

The growing number of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 (approximately 93,000,000 individuals, or 18% of the population) and downward trend of daily cases have prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue new guidelines directed at the vaccinated. One provision permits two-time vaccinated individuals to refrain from mask-wearing and social distancing when in contact with other vaccinated people. Quarantine is also unnecessary should the vaccinated individual be asymptomatic. In public, a vaccinated person should still continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing. 

The positive trends of COVID-19’s impact upon the U.S. is evident of the country’s successful fight against the virus. Let us not waste this occurrence by being socially irresponsible. Please continue to wear masks in public, practice social/physical distancing, avoid large crowds and wash your hands.