Global COVID Cases Drop, More Variants Emerge

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Day 329: Stay Safe Minnesota

Although new COVID-19 cases are dropping globally, threat to pandemic remains due to the emergence of new more contagious variants.

According to Johns Hopkins University database, new cases of COVID-19 for the last week were 2.7 million, the lowest since October. ‘That resulted in a 2.5% increase in total infections from the previous week, the weakest gain since the start of the pandemic and less than half the rate seen a month earlier’, writes Bloomberg news.

Screenshot source: Bloomberg

Citing JHU database, the seven- day average of new infections dropped below 100,000 to 83,321 with 3,361 new deaths, writes NPR news.

We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer. It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on NBC’s Meet the Press (source: NPR)

In the CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) News, Lisa Schnirring writes that the lower global drop in cases and deaths was mainly driven by steep declines in the two highest-burden countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, highly infectious coronavirus variants from the U.K. and South Africa pose a serious risk to any progress in the U.S. The ‘B117 virus variant has now been detected in 94 countries spanning all six WHO regions, with local transmission occurring in 47.

Emerging COVID Variants

According CIDRAP, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, first reported from the UK, has now been detected in 94 countries spanning all six WHO regions, with local transmission occurring in 47.

Citing Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) report CIDRAP writes that ‘more countries have reported their first variant cases, and many are reporting local variant transmission’.

“Two more countries reported B1351 detections, pushing the number to 46, including at least 12 in which the variant is spreading locally. And for P1, 6 more countries confirmed their first cases, raising the number to 21. So far, local transmission involving P1 is reported in just two countries in the Americas region.”

Talking to CNN German health minister said, UK Covid-19 variant detected in every 5th new infection and Germany is experiencing “a rise of worrying coronavirus mutations”, despite an overall decrease in new cases and an increase in people getting vaccinated.

Citing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday updated data, CNN writes “At least 1,549 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the United States”.

Why New COVID Variant Emerge?

In a recent article in The Conversation, David Welch and others write that there could several reasons for this current emergence of more contagious coronavirus variants including the ‘continued exponential rise in cases globally’. “Every COVID-19 case gives the virus a chance to mutate, and if the number of infections continues to rise, more new variants are likely to emerge”.

As long as the virus is around, it will continue to mutate. With vaccine protection and natural immunity in a growing number of people, there is greater pressure on virus variants that evade our immune defences.

The Conversation

“The best way to protect against all current variants and to prevent the emergence of further variants is to drive down the number of cases through ongoing control measures and vaccination” write David Welch and colleague.

COVID-19 Vaccination Watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Feb 20, 9 a.m.) 74,979,165 doses have been distributed and 61,289,500 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Feb 18) a total of 1,059,617 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Feb 20) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 478,157 (out of 7,132,441 tested) with 6,423 deaths.