Health experts express concerns for New York City COVID-19 variant

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 file photo, people wait in line at a mass vaccination site in the Queens borough of New York. This FEMA run site, along with another in Brooklyn, gives priority to local residents in an effort to equitably distribute the vaccine. Researchers have flagged another mutated version of the coronavirus spreading in New York but experts say it’s too soon to know if the variant will be problematic. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

The CDC is investigating a coronavirus variant that is spreading quickly. It’s in New York and has gone up more than 12% in the last two weeks.

We’re learning it could lead to new infections even after people are vaccinated.

With spring break in full swing, packed beaches and crowded restaurants have some fearing tourists are bringing more to public spaces than their business alone.

“When you look in certain parts of New York, Brooklyn, parts of Queens, parts of Staten Island, the positivity rate is approaching 15%,” said Dr. Scott Gottlied publicy, the former FDA commissioner. “So you’re seeing a lot of infection surging in pockets of New York City.”

Some blame these numbers in part on a new variant.

“One of the concerns about this particular variant is that it has that mutation that’s also in the south African variant, in the B.1.351 variant, that we know in certain cases is causing people who have already had coronavirus to get reinfected with it,” Gottlieb explained.


Variant B.1.526’s spike protein is different from the spike protein currently approved vaccines are targeting.

“The antibodies that you’ve created with the vaccine may not work as well against this new spike protein,” said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

That change impacts some of our COVID-19 treatments too, such as antibody cocktails.

Prins says vaccine manufacturers can adjust their vaccines to meet the new threat quickly.

“The basis for the vaccine is already there. The vaccines have been tested,” Prins said. “It’s really just a matter of adding to the messenger RNA component that’s within the vaccines.”

Prins says, at this point, we don’t know how widespread the potential variant is because, as a country, we don’t check enough coronavirus test samples. That’s why former Gottlieb says we need to be more aggressive when it comes to testing and checking for variants.


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