Is the Coronavirus Really Coming to an End?


Samir Tusneem

With the introduction of an efficacious vaccine for the coronavirus, many are optimistic that the year-long pandemic is finally coming to a conclusion. As much as that may be true, scientists have uncovered a new strain of COVID, and this most likely will not be the last. The main questions come down to whether or not this new strain is more deadly and if there is a need for another lockdown. 

Where did the new strain come from?

As of now, the new COVID strain has been identified in at least four U.S states and 33 countries. This variation of the original strain was originally discovered in the United Kingdom and quickly made its way around the globe. The discovery of a new strain of the virus was certainly not a surprise; there was bound to be one at some point. Just like every other virus, COVID develops mutations that allow it to stay active. This means that there are most likely other strains of the virus lurking in the world right now, but we simply have not discovered them yet. 

How is this strain different from the original?

The main difference between the two strains revolves around their structures. Scientists have found that the new strain is more likely to be transmitted from one person to another, which hints at the possibility of a rapid increase in cases in the near future. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, embellished this by stating that the new strain could increase the reproductive rate by 40% or more and that it is up to 70% more contagious than the original variant. Fortunately, there is currently no evidence suggesting that this form of the virus is any more deadly than the original. In order to further determine any other distinguishing characteristics of the new strain, researchers are currently working to see if differences in structure play any role in these findings.

Is the United States safe from the new strain?

Unfortunately, states such as Texas and Connecticut are already uncovering cases of the new strain. On January 7 at 1:59 P.M, Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut revealed that two cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 have been confirmed. This means that the new strain is certainly circulating within the country, and only time will tell when it will spread to its next victims.

As for North Carolina, the state reported a record of more than 10,000 cases in a single day on January 7, which was an increase of almost 7,000 from the previous day. However, there is currently no evidence suggesting that the new covid strain is among these new cases, but officials are confident that it will reach North Carolina at some point. Given that the new strain is significantly more contagious than the original, it is most likely inevitable that it will be within our presence in the near future.

How can we stay safe from this form of the virus? Will vaccines still work against it?

As far as precautions go, officials suggest that people continue to follow CDC’s guidelines of social distancing and wearing masks in public in order to prevent further transmission of the virus and compromising the safety of others. Fortunately, scientists are remaining optimistic and believe that the current vaccines should still work against the new strains, but they just won’t be as effective. The flu virus, for example, goes through mutations as well, which is why people are encouraged to get vaccinated once a year.

Given the circumstances of the coronavirus and the development of effective vaccines, it is safe to say that the world will eventually go back to normal, just not quite yet. With new strains being uncovered and cases continuing to rise, the best we can do is follow protocols of social distancing and wearing masks in order to keep ourselves and others safe. As hectic as it has been, it is important to remain optimistic and hopeful for the future.

Update: As of January 10, two other coronavirus strains have been uncovered, with one being in Japan and the other being in South Africa.