The news of a new strain of the COVID-19 virus has shaken the world. While the newest variant, dubbed VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020), doesn’t appear to be any more deadly, it is spreading at a much more rapid pace then the original. During FiveThirtyEight’s PODCAST-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, discussed the new coronavirus, urging people to take the mutation seriously. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
This Isn’t the First Time—Nor the Last—COVID Will Mutate
Dr. Fauci started out by explaining that this isn’t the first, nor the last, time the virus will mutate. “Well, I think it’s important to point out that since this is an RNA virus, we’re going to see it mutate, and it will continue to mutate,” he explained. “To think it’s not going to accumulate mutations is naive. It will absolutely do that.”
However, it isn’t clear what that will mean in terms of the severity of the new mutations or how they will react to vaccines. “The real question is what you asked: Does the mutation induce a functional difference? Does it functionally change? Right now, it’s clear that this new variant is spreading pretty rapidly throughout southeastern England, and another variant is in South Africa. And is it cause and effect? Is the mutation causing the increased spread? Or are you seeing the increased spread of a mutation that’s after the fact? We don’t know that.”
“We Need to Be Careful”
Fauci urged the importance of taking the new mutation seriously. “We need to be careful. We need to follow it very carefully,” he said. “We know that it almost certainly does not increase virulence, it isn’t a more deadly virus, number one. And number two, it’s extremely unlikely that it’s going to interfere with the efficacy of a vaccine. Having said that, we have to take mutations serious.”
While he doesn’t suggest doing anything “draconian, like blocking any travel from one to the other yet,” he explained that “you need to take it seriously enough so that if it does have a significant functional effect, you can act accordingly.”
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How to Survive This Pandemic
As for yourself, follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.