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Mid-Michigan disease expert says more variants raise concerns for dragging out COVID-19 pandemic

Disease expert says new variants raise more questions like how effective vaccines are against new strains
Mid-Michigan disease expert says more variants raise concerns for dragging out COVID-19 pandemic
Mid-Michigan disease expert says more variants raise concerns for dragging out COVID-19 pandemic
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 10:29 PM EDT
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - (04/09/2021) - COVID-19 variants are spreading throughout the country, especially in Michigan.

The state has become the largest hotspot in the country.

On Friday, medical officials confirmed another case of the new, easily-transmitted P.1 variant in Shiawassee county.

The B.1.1.7 variant is still the most common one in both the U.S. and in Michigan with more than 2,500 confirmed cases, but one Mid-Michigan epidemiologist says the P.1 variant is just as infectious as the B.1.1.7 variant.

”You’re a lot more likely to get it if you’re just in a restaurant with someone or at a party with twenty other people,” Dr. Rick Sadler said.

Sadler is an assistant professor for the MSU Division of Public Health. He says the concern is that the longer we let COVID-19 stick around, the more challenging it’s going to be to get rid of it.

”Every time there’s a new variant, it’s new questions for scientists to have to figure out,” Sadler said.

Questions like will the vaccines be effective against this and other possible variants?

”My understanding is that the vaccines tend to be effective against the variants, but that’s the challenge is we don’t know at one point a variant might be able to get past a vaccine,” Sadler said.

Sadler says if everyone gets vaccinated, then eventually like smallpox and Polio, COVID-19 won’t be prevalent in society.

At this point 39% of Michigan adults have received at least one shot, but if it COVID continues circulating, Sadler says more variants could show up, and any one of those variants could wind up being more deadly. 

Now, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking but not mandating a two-week pause for in-person learning, youth sports, and indoor dining.

Sadler agrees, saying this is what we the state needs at a bare minimum.

“We need to do our part to help slow this spread. We’ve all been going through it, but we can’t let our foot off the gas. We can’t stop running. We’re almost at the finish line,” Sadler said. 

For more information, including how to get the COVID-19 vaccine in your county, click here.

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