Doctor warns COVID-19 will likely mutate again as it moves through the population

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 09:40:09-05

TAMPA, Fla. — A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 has likely been in the states for quite some time.

Four states have now confirmed cases of the new variant, B.1.1.7. The most recent has been reported in upstate New York. Officials say a man in his 60s, who is now recovering, tested positive for it and reported no recent travel history.

“It has been here for a while, the one case that we had in Martin County, that person had no known travel history,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor of Medicine at USF. “It’s been spreading in our community for a while. So it is here.”

According to the CDC, the variant spreads more quickly from person to person but doesn’t cause more severe illness, and current vaccines are still effective against it.

“This is what viruses do, they’re adapting,” said Dr. Teng. “It’s adapting to humans as it goes through more and more people.”

Dr. Teng says the virus will continue to adapt which means we could see even more variants in the near future.

“The longer the virus transmits, the more chances it’s going to change, it’s not a huge likelihood of it becoming resistant to the vaccines but it could happen,” said Dr. Teng.

It’s why he says vaccinations need to be moving faster.

Right now, if we look at the United States population of around 328 million and vaccinated 1 million a day, it would take nearly a full year to complete which gives the virus that much more time to change.

“This is not a trivial undertaking, so hopefully we can do more than 1 million a day, hopefully, it’s more like 3 to 5,000,000 a day,” he said.

For now, he says the most effective way to lower transmission is to continue to social distance, wear masks, and wash your hands.