Fast-Spreading Variants of Coronavirus Raise Concerns About Possible New Surges

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The spread of the highly contagious U.K. variant is sparking worry about a future coronavirus surge in San Diego County.

“The concern is that even though we're in a period of declining case counts right now, as the strain expands to become the dominant strand it could reverse the trend that we're seeing and lead to an increase of cases,” said Dr. Natasha Martin, associate professor of medicine at UCSD.

The variant has now been identified in at least 33 states. Over 500 cases have been reported and nearly 20% of those cases are in San Diego. 

“There's an indication that it is 30% to 70% more transmissible than previous strains and it can potentially be 30% more lethal than previous strains," said Martin.

The good news is the vaccine appears to remain effective so far. But it appears the U.K. variant has mutated once again.

“Their variants also acquired a mutation called E484K which is also present in the South African and Brazilian variants and could potentially be contributing to the vaccine not being as effective on those variants,” said Martin.

The University of Washington recently shared a grim forecast. By adding the variant into the equation they estimate the death toll in California could climb to 75,000 in just three months. 

“We need to be aware that the variant expansion could lead to a resurgence in cases,” said Martin. “We need to double down on our masking and social distancing and get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible so that we can reduce the amount of circulating virus and prevent a potential surge."

Pandemic fatigue, the slow vaccine rollout, and the new variants could potentially be the perfect storm to fuel another wave of the coronavirus.

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