The United States is averaging 3 million vaccinations a day across the country, and in San Diego more than one million residents have received at least one dose. More than 469,000 of those residents are people over age 60. The county moved into the Orange Tier on April 7, and people are starting to relax after more than a year of crisis. Unfortunately, we can’t ease up just yet, because some states are experiencing a new surge of cases, bringing the national numbers up again. The COVID-19 mutation called the UK variant (B.1.1.7) is responsible for most of these new cases, and it’s 50% more contagious than the original ‘wild’ COVID-19 virus. Scientists are still studying this and several other variants, so we are sharing what is known now about the variants, and what the UK variant now rampant means for seniors and caregivers in San Diego.
More than 100 million Americans have been vaccinated with at least one dose so far, and the vaccination program in the U.S. is moving very quickly to reach the rest of the country. People over 65, essential workers and health care workers were prioritized in the initial months of the rollout, but President Biden announced on April 6 that all adults will be eligible for the vaccine as of April 19. As states push to vaccinate as many people as possible, the new case rate has surged in the last two weeks. Since late March, five states have reported 44% of new Covid cases as the CDC reports a steady increase in new cases in the last 30 days. The CDC has announced several new mutations of the original Covid-19 virus called variants. Per the CDC’s website, “There are currently five VOCs (Variants of Concern) in the United States:
- 1.1.7: This variant was first identified in the US in December 2020. It was initially detected in the UK.
- 1.351: This variant was first identified in the US at the end of January 2021. It was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020.
- 1: This variant was first detected in the US in January 2021. P.1 was initially identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January.
- 1.427 and B.1.429: These two variants were first identified in California in February 2021 and were classified as VOCs in March 2021.”
The most prevalent variant in the United States right now is B.1.1.7 or the UK variant, which is now responsible for most of the new cases reported in the U.S. Per the San Diego UT, “the variant likely accounted for about half of new cases in the U.S. by March 19 and will represent almost all new cases by early May.” This variant is 50% more contagious than the original Covid-19 virus, and it affects children more than adults. The vaccines currently approved and administered are mostly effective against the UK variant, which is good news, but reports shows that these same vaccines are largely ineffective against the South Africa variant. Despite the millions of doses administered every day, Americans aren’t getting vaccinated quickly enough to avoid a new surge from the highly contagious, fast-spreading UK variant.
Here’s what CNN reports about the UK variant now rampant in the U.S.:
- “The highly contagious Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK has now been reported in every state in the US, and experts are concerned spreading variants could send cases surging.
- The B.1.1.7 variant was first spotted in the United Kingdom. It spreads more easily and appears to be deadlier as well.
- More than 15,000 cases of that have been reported in the US so far.
What officials and health experts are saying
- Covid-19 cases have been on the rise for four straight weeks in part because of the spread of variants, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Anthony Fauci has pleaded with the US public to “hold out just a bit longer”as health experts fear coronavirus variants and pandemic fatigue could lead to a spring surge.
- Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health warned that states need to hold off on lifting restrictions for another few weeks, saying, “we’re not there yet and the variants make it particularly concerning.”
Scientists are still studying the UK variant, as they know that it is 50% more transmissible, but they don’t know yet if it impacts children harder than it does adults, or if the vaccines, tests and treatments work just as well against it as they do the original virus.
What does this mean for seniors in San Diego home care and their families? Being vaccinated doesn’t mean precautions and safety protocols are unnecessary. None of the vaccines can protect us from getting the virus in the first place or transmitting it to a loved one. The majority of new cases are the UK variant, and the UK variant is getting children sick at a much higher rate. There’s no vaccine yet approved for children under 16, which means avoiding contracting (and possibly passing on) the virus in every way possible is the only way to protect children. The spread of vaccines is racing against the spread of these variants, and the best thing seniors and loved ones can do it continue to stay safe, and observe the rules.
Get notifications from the state of California about your specific eligibility for the vaccine by signing up at https://myturn.ca.gov/ or by calling 1-833-422-4255 for information about where you are in line, based on age, occupation or health risk.