“Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variant spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained,” warned the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, adding that throwing caution to the wind in the wake of COVID variants spreading is asking for trouble, “these variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Not when we are so close.”
But how real is the threat of a fourth wave where the more transmissible and deadlier UK variant B 1.1.7. is dominant? Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at University California San Francisco says the variants are here and the threat is real, “Back in September our variants were less than one percent by December we were getting five percent variants, January now 50 percent, projection now for the end of this month more than 90 percent. The writing is on the wall this is not the COVID that we had in March of 2020.”
Early research has shown says this mutation and our own California mutant strain are up to 70 percent more transmissible.
“It has one superpower over the regular variant which is it’s stickier so it’s like Velcro when it gets to you it sticks better so it’s easier to transmit because maybe in the old days one would just fly by you but this new one is just going to stick to your nose and your mouth and just hold on,” says Dr. Chin-Hong.
He says the good news is vaccines out now seem effective against those the UK and California strains, but that’s not the case with the South African and Brazilian mutations, “Having two superpowers not only is it stickier but it can evade vaccines.”
He worries several factors could have a chilling effect on the progress, “Spring break coming up, the weather is getting warmer people are reopening either gradually and appropriately like California or suddenly turning on the light switch like in Texas, so a patchwork response, numbers that are plateaued, new variants, slow vaccine roll out all this makes one unsettling time.”
He says there’s no doubt the wave will come, “I think we impact on how big that wave will be the wave will likely be in different parts of the country with hot spots potentially in Texas after spring break, potentially in California at some point, we just don’t know, I just know we’ll get it.”
That’s why he says it’s more important than ever to continue to take precautions until we can get most of the population vaccinated to stop these mutations because the next ones could be even worse, “What’s scarier is the variant of the future, you can’t get a variant, you can’t mutation unless you have replication.”