Peter Chin-Hong, MD
This report on the first case of the UK variant of COVID isolated in Colorado was a breeze for me.
Even during the COVID pandemic, travel between the UK and the US has been brisk and the virus knows no borders. The virus doesn’t care if you live in Europe or the US. The fact that the 20-year-old man did not travel to the UK was not surprising.
The points shown to me in this case weren’t necessarily about increased virulence, but rather about efforts to contain the virus before it reached a point where this variant or another variant of potentially increased transmissibility from one nose and another could jump mouth to another. In another time the virus wouldn’t have removed that much. But there are enough receptors in infected people to be exclusive.
What also shows me is that in the US, 0.003% of the time we can’t do much genomic surveillance for COVID-19 variants compared to other countries. The CDC is developing a variant screening initiative, but this is more than 9 months after the pandemic started. We have already seen record cases. Most of all, the burden is below us and it will only be a matter of time before we isolate many more cases – – not just in Colorado, but in all 50 states.
What we know about the variant seems scary – – increased transferability. What this variant is not, however, is also reassuring. There is no evidence that it causes any more serious illness. Our protection and other interventions are still working. It is almost certain that the current vaccines against the new strain will work. The variant reminds us that we must practice all of these interventions to protect ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and our community.
This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a variant, but perhaps the biggest drawback of the variant was that it highlighted the fear and anxiety that countries turn against countries, close borders without any information, and separate friends and family in the blink of an eye from each other. Sometimes these interventions can do more harm than good. Ironically, events such as the hustle and bustle of a lockdown or a border breach ensure more transmission.
At the end of the day, let’s get together, do the things we know we need to do, and not get too excited about the variant. It is a symbol of how much more we have to do before we beat this virus.
Peter Chin-Hong, MD
Member of the editorial team for infectious diseases
Professor of Medicine
Director of the Infectious Disease Transplant Program
University of California, San Francisco
Disclosure: Chin-Hong does not report any relevant financial information.