In December 2020, health experts publicly expressed concern that the COVID-19 virus had mutated, with a specific variant identified in the UK. In the months since, a few others have followed suit, and have been detected in multiple states across the country. During Friday’s White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned about the variants that are quickly becoming dominant across the globe. Read on to learn why he is so concerned—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
The B.1.1.7 Variant Is Becoming Dominant
Dr. Fauci started off by discussing that the UK variant, formally referred to as B.1.1.7, is responsible for a surge of infections in Europe, “where the flare and the surge that they are seeing is directly related to the variant,” he said. “This variant, as you know, is every day getting more and more dominant in our own country.” He continued to go over the facts, including that in just three months, it has been detected in “50 jurisdictions in the United States and the likely accounts now for about 20 to 30% of the infections in this country and that number is growing.”
The Variant Is More Transmissible And Possible More Severe
One of the main reasons he is so concerned with B.1.1.7 is that it is much more transmissible, to the turn of 50% increase in transmission,” he pointed out. “And there's likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant,” he said, offering data out of Europe.
“In a couple of UK studies, this one looking at over 54,000 matched pairs of participants in the UK in which one person was infected with the B.1.1.7 and another one with the previously circulating variant, it was a 64% increased risk of death for those with the B.1.1.7,” he said. “In this similar study in the UK, there was about 5,000 that were analyzed where there was the presence or absence of 117, and again, an estimated 61% higher risk of death with B.1.1.7.”
There Is Some Good News
Dr. Fauci also offered some “encouraging” news. “There has been a minimal impact on viral neutralization by EUA monoclonal antibodies, and importantly, for what we are doing in the United States with vaccines, there's been a minimal impact on viral neutralization either by convalescent plasma, or importantly by post vaccination,” he said. He even offered data out of Israel, showing that the vaccine has been effectively reducing the number of B.1.1.7 infections.
What You Can Do to Stop the Spread of B.1.1.7
Dr. Fauci wanted “to end with a big caveat” in terms of the way we can counter the variant, “which is a growing threat in our country.” He offered two tools that all of us can use. The first? “To get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with a vaccine that we know works against this variant,” he said. And second, “finally to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time—masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregate settings, particularly indoors.”
How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic
So follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don’t travel, 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.