A COVID-19 model that predicts nearly 569,000 people will die by May 1 doesn’t include the new highly contagious variants that are more likely to infect people during ‘every day activities’.
Infections, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in recent days. But on Sunday, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington shared a new forecast predicting a third wave of the coronavirus later this year if people don’t get the vaccine.
And while the model does show a significant decrease in cases and deaths beginning in March and April, it doesn’t account for the new variants of the coronavirus that have been found in the US.
A COVID-19 model (pictured) predicts that nearly 569,000 people will die by May 1 despite the decrease in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths
And while the model (pictured) does show a significant decrease in cases and deaths beginning in March and April, it doesn’t account for the new variants of the coronavirus that have been found in the US
IHME director Dr Christopher Murray told CNN: ‘These numbers don’t yet account for the new variants. We will be putting out models at the end of the week that will, and that will change the picture.
‘But the decline that we expect to see is coming because we’re at the peak of seasonality,’ Murray said.
Murray predicts that the vaccine ‘will prevent a lot of death’.
‘But it’s pretty likely we believe that there will be a third wave of transmission in the winter of 2021,’ Murray said, adding that that prediction is based on whether or not people get the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician, told the network on Monday that people are more likely to catch COVID-19 while grocery shopping and doing other every day activities now that there are more variants in the US.
‘We’ve seen what happens in other countries that have actually had coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took over and they had explosive spread of the virus, and then overwhelmed hospitals,’ she said.
Wen continued: ‘If we thought that going to the grocery store before was relatively safe, there’s actually a higher likelihood of contracting coronavirus through those everyday activities.’
The revelations come as Brazil’s ‘super-covid’ variant was discovered in the US.
Meanwhile, Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician, told the network on Monday that people are more likely to catch COVID-19 while grocery shopping (pictured in New York City) and doing other every day activities now that there are more variants in the US
WHAT ARE THE ‘SUPER-COVID’ VARIANTS SPREADING AROUND THE WORLD?
UK’S ‘KENT’ VARIANT – B117
UK health officials announced in December that a ‘variant of concern’ had emerged in Kent.
The variant is known to scientists as B117, a name derived from the location of its most significant mutations.
B117 appears to be more infectious than older ‘wild-type’ coronavirus variants.
Most estimates put it at about 70% more infectious, but some studies suggest it could be twice as infectious, while more moderate projections say its transmissibility is only about 56% higher.
B117 quickly became dominant in the UK, and now accounts for at least 61% of cases there.
It has been detected in 60 countries, including the US, where at least 159 cases in 22 states have been identified.
While its mutations seemed to quite clearly make the variant more infectious, it didn’t seem to change the odds of severe COVID-19 or death.
But UK health officials said Friday it may be 30 to 40% more deadly, based on how many people infected with it die. The mortality rate for people hospitalized with B117 in the UK appears no different from that of older variants.
After reviewing the UK’s data, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert said it may indeed be deadlier.
However, he and UK officials still say other variants are more concerning because they may make vaccines less effective – which doesn’t seem to be the case with the UK variant.
SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT – B1351
A new variant was announced in South Africa on December 18.
It shares a mutation with the UK variant – in a location on its genome known as 501Y – but also has several other mutations.
The South African variant is estimated to be about 50 percent more contagious and is already dominant there.
It has spread to at lest 20 countries, including the UK, which has at least 77 countries.
South Africa’s mutated variant has not yet been spotted in the US – but many experts suspect it is already here.
President Joe Biden invoked a travel ban on people coming from South Africa in an effort to stop importation of the new variant.
Dr Fauci says that the South African variant is the most concerning one because it might render vaccines less effective due to mutations that help it ‘hide’ from antibodies developed after vaccination or a previous bout of COVID-19.
BRAZIL’S VARIANT – P1
The variant first caught international attention when four travelers arriving to Tokyo from Manaus, Brazil, tested positive on January 2.
The variant has the same spike protein mutation as the highly transmissible versions found in Kent and South Africa – named N501Y – which makes the spike better able to bind to receptors inside the body.
Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, has been devastated by COVID-19. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and Brazilian officials have said it is in a state of crisis.
The new variant accounts for nearly half of all cases there and is thought to be more contagious and possibly make vaccines less effective.
The variant has been spotted in Japan, France and Germany. It has not yet been detected in the UK or the US – but former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said he suspects it has already arrived.
Health officials in Minnesota said a resident who recently returned from hard-hit Brazil was diagnosed with the strain in the Twin Cities.
The variant – known as P1 – is likely around 50 per cent more infectious.
President Joe Biden reinstated travel bans blocking people travelers from entering the US from several countries with dangerous variants, including the UK and Brazil. The president recently added South Africa to the list.
But the order came too late. The Twin Cities resident tested positive for COVID-19 on January 9 and was already ill by then.
Brazil’s variant is particularly worrisome because its mutations may render vaccines less effective.
Just hours earlier on Monday, Dr Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and board member of Pfizer said he believed the Brazilian variant was already in the US.
Direct flights between Brazil and the US have long been suspended but itineraries arriving in the US via layovers in others countries have still been available according to quick Google flight searches.
More than 25 million infections have been reported in the US since the pandemic hit the country last year
The new variant accounts for nearly half of all cases in the Amazons, and hospitals in the largest city in the region, Manaus, are so overwhelmed with patients the city is in the midst of an oxygen shortage.
The South African variant is also estimated to be about 50 per cent more infectious.
And the spike protein mutation it and the Brazilian variant share may make them both more resistant to vaccines.
In fact, Moderna also announced Monday that while it’s vaccine still works well enough to be protective against the South African variant, lab tests suggest the antibodies triggered by the shot may be 60 per cent less potent against the virus in vitro (in a cell culture, not a live animal or person).
It’s possible the Brazilian variant could have a similar impact on the effectiveness of the shot – but it hasn’t been tested directly in the lab, in animals or in humans.
Meanwhile, the UK variant of the virus has been making its way across several US states.
Over the weekend, Washington state reported its first cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
The variant has now been found in at least 22 states, with the country reporting a total of almost 200 cases, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).