Multiple COVID-19 Variants Spread Across the US

This+is+a+map+of+countries+with+confirmed+cases+of+501.V2+variant+as+of+January+15th%2C+2021.+The+501Y.V2+variant%2C+also+known+as+B.1.351%2C+was+first+discovered+in+Nelson+Mandela+Bay%2C+South+Africa.+Since+the+time+of+the+making+of+this+map%2C+the+US+has+gained+6+new+cases%2C+with+the+first+being+reported+on+January+28th.

By Manvswow - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98890191

This is a map of countries with confirmed cases of 501.V2 variant as of January 15th, 2021. The 501Y.V2 variant, also known as B.1.351, was first discovered in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. Since the time of the making of this map, the US has gained 6 new cases, with the first being reported on January 28th.

Nathalia Becerra, Journalist

On January 9th, the Brazil P.1 variant was first discovered among Japanese visitors to the Amazon. This variant has spread to other countries, including the USA. The first case of P.1 variant in the US was discovered in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health said, “While this variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, it is not yet known whether the variant causes more severe illness.”

The patient who showed up in Minnesota with the Brazil P.1 variant had recently traveled to Brazil. During the first week of January after their return, they felt ill. The P.1 was detected through genomic sequencing of random nasal swabs. The patient is currently isolated and epidemiologists are trying to trace any contact this person made on their trip to Brazil.

There is a woman in Oklahoma who is also reported to have contracted the P.1 variant. State epidemiologist Jared Taylor says that she is no longer infectious. Although she is no longer infectious, a household member has been tested positive for the coronavirus. This case was confirmed by the CDC website on February 7th.

 On January 20th, the Brazil P.2 was discovered in a sample from the Bay Area in California. 

Only 3 cases (two in Minnesota, and the one in Oklahoma) of the P.1 have been detected in the United States and 25 cases of P.2 have been reported in multiple states. Out of 25 cases, only 3 have been detected in California. Two near San Diego in late November and early December and the third in an undisclosed location on January 8th. All the other cases were located in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Puerto Rico, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In a Los Angeles Times article, Stanford’s Clinical Virology Laboratory Director Dr. Benjamin Pinsky stated that although the P.2 variant is different from the P.1, they both “share a mutation that appears to help the virus evade antibodies generated by either a previous infection or a vaccine.”

Freshman America Cisneros stated, “It’s pretty scary to me because this new virus [the P.1] seems even more dangerous.”

So far only a handful of cases from the P.1 variant have been detected in countries outside of Brazil. It seems that the P.1 is a more highly transmissible strain of the coronavirus. If it is, that means it is more deadly than less infectious strains.

Junior Julien Pineda stated, “My thoughts about the P.1 variant are that it’s not very surprising that it occurred and it’s a big thing that happened. It should’ve been talked about more…The only surprising thing to me was that they found changes in the spike protein, which leads it to be more dangerous.”

According to the CDC, the P.1 is a branch off of the B.1.1.28 lineage. Also known as 20J/501Y.V3, the P.1 variant has a spike protein mutation that will make the variant more contagious. The escape mutation is known as E484K. In lab experiments, it has been found to help the coronavirus evade protective antibodies generated by earlier infections. Basically, anyone who was infected with an earlier strain of coronavirus could be reinfected with a mutated variant. 

The E484K mutation also exists in B.1.351, or 20H/501Y.V2, a variant found in South Africa. Scientists suspect that the 501.V2 is more infectious than other strains of SARS-CoV-2.

Another emerging variant comes from the UK. It is referred to as 20I/501Y.V1 and B.1.1.7. It is also associated with more efficient and rapid transmission. Although early reports found no evidence that says that the variant will affect the disease severity or vaccine efficacy, UK scientists in January 2021 found that it may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants, according to the CDC. It is currently spreading in the Big Bear area after four cases were detected, two in mid-December, and two in mid-January. 

As of February 7th, 2021, the CDC states that there are 3 reported cases of the P.1 variant, 6 reported cases of the B.1.351 variant, and 690 reported cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the US. 

 CDC is monitoring the spread of identified variants and expanding its ability to find new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Freshman Celeste Alvarez said, “I think it is very unfortunate that this pandemic continues and now has spread to more countries which will make it harder to stop the virus. I think it’s very hard for poor countries that don’t have enough resources to stabilize them. We should help them with whatever we can, support people who are going through tough times, be grateful for our good health and thankful for what we have.”

Brazil had more than 7.9 million cases and over 200,000 deaths. In early June 2020, Brazil began averaging about 1,000 deaths a day. In August, the spread of the virus eased and malls, beaches, restaurants, and more started drawing crowds. Then the easing of preventive measures began to take a toll. Case numbers began rising and 700 or more deaths happened everyday. 

As of February 7th, the US currently has over 27 million COVID cases.

Please visit the CDC website for new information regarding COVID-19 and its variants.