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Epidemiologist breaks down concerns about COVID-19 variants

A new report from the UK states there is “a realistic possibility” that the new COVID-19 variant has a higher death rate than others.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that, while the data is not conclusive, “there is some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”

CDC modeling suggests this new variant, which has been shown to spread especially quickly, could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

Some of the latest numbers showed 195 cases in the US, with more than 50 of those in Florida, and news out of Minnesota shows a new variant case there from Brazil.

Dr. Jonathan Kantor, an epidemiologist with the Penn Center for Epidemiology, said part of the concern is the increase in variant cases.

“The other thing to keep in mind, of course, is when you numbers like 195 or 50 cases, these are just samples. This is a representative sampling that they’re doing. This is not really showing everything that’s out there,” Kantor warned. “Because the cases are more likely to spread with the variant, those numbers are going to increase and increase over time.”

Kantor says variants are not unusual with viruses, but the increasing numbers of variant cases highlight the need to continue social distancing practices and for making sure you get a vaccine when it’s available to you.

Many wonder if the variants will affect whether the vaccines being given now will continue to be effective.

“Everything we know up to now suggests that the current vaccines will be effective in fighting the new strains,” Kantor said. “Keep in mind, these are not different viruses. Viruses are always mutating. So every virus mutates. None of these mutations have suggested that they are going to be resistant to the vaccine. That’s really very important and very great news.”

Press play on the video at the top of this article to hear more from Kantor, including his concerns about the virus spreading among children.


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