PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – New concerns as COVID-19 variants are linked to more infections in the Philadelphia area. Disturbing mutations, like those in Brazil and South Africa, are more contagious and fuel a spike in cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and across the country.
Viral fatigue, less cautious people, and more travel are partly responsible for the growth of cases. And now there is new evidence that variants are on the increase as well.
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“Variants are increasingly common in our area and unfortunately this is associated with an increase in infections,” said Frederic Bushman, an assistant at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bushman’s microbiology lab at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the few tests for COVID-19 variants.
They found different strains in 30% of 80 random virus samples from the Philadelphia area.
“The British strain, the South African strain, the Brazilian strain seems to really take off,” Bushman said.
The variants are neither more dangerous nor more deadly, but they are more contagious and now partially responsible for a new spike in cases.
In Pennsylvania, there has been a 54% increase in the past two weeks.
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“What this tells me is that we need to go even faster to get people to wear masks, keep a distance and get vaccinated,” said Dr Thomas Farley, Philadelphia health commissioner.
He says even with the increase in vaccinations, there hasn’t been enough to stop a resurgence.
“The risk is as high as it has ever been, the virus is still there and it is still fatal,” Farley said. “We are tired of the virus, the virus is not tired of us, if something the virus is more forceful than ever, it is a stickier strain.”
There are indications that the vaccine is less effective against South African and Brazilian strains.
“Do you think this will lead to more cases and more cases of variants?” CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl asked.
“I think it may already be, we don’t know for sure, but it seems likely, unfortunately,” Bushman said. “The solution is to use whatever methods we have to remove the virus. Get vaccinated, wear masks, move away socially, wash your hands.
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Pennsylvania had 400 cases of the variant first detected in the UK on Monday, according to CDC data, up from 168 last Monday.