What and Where are the New COVID Strands?

Kai Heister, Science and Technology Writer

Viruses have always mutated to better allow themselves to spread. This holds true to COVID-19. It’s important to know the facts of Covid-19 and all of its possible variants. The virus that causes COVID-19 and its variants is a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like shape in the form of spikes on their surfaces.
There are 3 variants that have been largely detected: B.1.1.7, which has largely grown in the UK, is the first variant. Not only has it been found in the UK, but it has also been found in the US and Canada, mainly in Virginia. This variant spreads faster and easier than COVID-19 and has caused the UK to go into lockdown again. Another variant, called 1.351, has emerged in South Africa. This variant has not spread to the US yet, but it has been found outside of South Africa. This virus shares similar mutations to the virus in the UK. A third variant, P.1, has been found in Brazil. It was identified from 4 travelers coming from Brazil into Tokyo, Japan. This virus has possibly mutated in a way that makes it harder to be recognized by antibodies. However, this virus has not been found in the US yet. These new variants may come and go quickly, or they could persist and stay for as long as COVID-19 has, if not longer. Thankfully, these variants have not been found to be more deadly than COVID-19. However, an increase of cases means an increase of strain on hospitals and health care resources, which could lead to a higher death rate. However, it is not known how far any of these viruses have spread or how this affects the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), continues to implore everyone to continue wearing masks, to continue using hand sanitizer, to self isolate and self quarantine if you come in contact with any of the viruses, and to socially distance when you are around others. As vaccines become available, the CDC supports that you try to get it whenever it is possible for you to do so.
When asked if they thought it would be a good idea to close the school if new stands of Covid-19 are widely circulating, multiple students and teachers said yes. Sue Kampert, the Human Dynamics and Development teacher said, “I guess we would have to study other places, if the new Covid strands are much more contagious, and in a school community they would spread a lot, which may necessitate the closing of the school.” Students also agreed with this notion. Phillip Crock ’23, said, “I think we should, because if we don’t then everyone will get it and we’ll have to stay home. If we close the school, then maybe we can stop the spread.” Ishmael Dobson ’23 commented, “Yes, because if it’s more deadly then we’re putting more students at risk by not closing the school,especially because the masks don’t 100% stop the spread.” Finola Mimnagh ’22 agreed, “Yes, because Covid is deadly and preserving the health of the students and staff should be the top priority.” The student body overwhelmingly insisted that student safety should be top priority, but most students want to stay in school for as long as possible.
The new COVID-19 strands are something to be concerned about, but it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. As scary as it can be, the whole world is going through this together, making us all one large community. It is important to stay safe and follow the guidelines in order to protect both yourself and the people around you. The safer you are, the sooner you and the rest of the world can get back to normal.