More contagious COVID-19 nears Louisiana

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Research at Tulane studies variants

New mutations of coronavirus first seen in the United Kingdom and South Africa are spreading now in the United States. Tulane School of Medicine professor Bob Garry said researchers have identified the virus as close to Louisiana as Houston Texas.

“We do know that there was a variant that showed up in Houston,” Gary said. “It’ll be very surprising to see if these variants don’t show up in low levels here in the metro New Orleans area fairly soon, but no confirmation of that yet.”

Gary said the mutated strains became dominant in the U.K. in just two to three months. He expects a similar scenario in the U.S.

“These new variants in the U.S., they’re less than one percent of the viruses, but if we come back in a couple of months, we are likely to see 50% or even more.”

The new strains are more contagious, he said, with the virus becoming more fit to infect its human hosts.

“The new strain that spreads about 50% or so more efficiently is going to make it a little bit more difficult to control.”

The imminent threat of a more contagious COVID-19 comes as Louisiana is reporting record numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths almost daily. According to the Louisiana Department of Health’s reporting, there have been 31,554 new coronavirus cases and 385 deaths between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10.

The current Emergency Executive Order requiring modified phase 2 restrictions statewide expires Jan. 13, but tighter restrictions or an extension of the current order is expected before that date.

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