Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

Associated Press/ Frank Augstein

New and more contagious strains of COVID-19 that originated in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil have hit the United States.

Towards the end of January, a new COVID-19 strain known as B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom began to emerge in the United States. This variant is 70 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain, according to the CDC. Scientists have also reported that evidence suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death.

The Virginia Department of Health has currently reported four cases of the new strain in the state. 

“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness.”

As of February 2, 33 states have reported a total of 541 cases of the new strain, according to the CDC. 

The death rate of COVID-19 is expected to rise with the new strain, as it will infect more people due to it being more contagious.

COVID-19 vaccine developers are working hard to make new shots that are proven to protect people from the new strains

When the strains first emerged, vaccine companies said that they believed their shots offered protection. However, new studies showed COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective against the mutation of the strain that spread in South Africa, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board warned about the highly transmissible new variants.

“They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the advisory board, to CNBC. “So it’s really important right now that we do everything possible to preserve the vaccines to make sure they keep working and that means preventing the spread of these new variants.”

 Experts say it’s urgent that people do not begin to let their guards down as winter comes to end and spring breaks begin. “Pandemic fatigue” is the phrase that has been coined to describe people being tired of restrictions outside their homes.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the President, said in an interview with MSNBC that the new strains could be “worse than the coronavirus that ravaged the world in 2020.

Experts have continued to encourage citizens to wear masks, avoid large indoor gatherings and stay socially distant from those not in your household to prevent the spread of the virus. Some experts are suggesting doubling up on masks, to increase protection.


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