What the COVID-19 variant strain really means for Seattleites

Jan 5 2021, 12:29 pm

By now you’ve probably heard that there’s a variant COVID-19 strain showing up around the world.

If not, well, there’s a variant COVID-19 strain currently making its way around the globe.

Here’s why you should care, according to Seattle and King County Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin:

Duchin says the new variant COVID-19 strain will most likely arrive in Washington. All viruses mutate, resulting in new strains that vary from their ancestors. These new strains are called variant strains.

Most coronavirus mutations don’t fundamentally change how the virus behaves or affects us; however, at least one newly recognized strain, often called B.1.1.7., “SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01” or an “N501Y” strain, has been shown to have multiple mutations that are changing the way the virus behaves in important ways.

This new strain spreads faster than other strains and is more contagious. If exposed, your risk of becoming infected is higher with the variant strain than with the previous strains. Although this B.1.1.7. variant is not yet in Washington State, it will spread rapidly once it hits a critical threshold. A rapid increase in people with COVID-19 causes fast-growing outbreaks, while more people infected means more people requiring hospitalization and more deaths.

Duchin’s recommendations going forward include:

  • decreasing activities and the number and duration of contacts with others outside the home
  • always wear face masks around non-household members indoors
  • avoiding crowded or poorly ventilated indoor spaces as well as improving ventilation in homes and workplaces
  • keeping at least a six-foot distance
  • paying attention to environmental cleaning and hand washing
  • consider looking into germ-killing UV technology for buildings
  • if you’re exposed to COVID-19, quarantine and if ill, isolate
  • when you are able, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others