Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse—and in a week in which the tally of COVID-19 related deaths in America climbed past 204,000—the headline came: “Massive genetic study shows coronavirus mutating and potentially evolving amid rapid U.S. spread.” Mutating? Yikes. What does this mean for you? AIDS activist Peter Staley interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci about COVID-19, and asked him about the mutation. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
The Mutation May be More Transmissible
The mutation, mentioned in science journals earlier this summer, made a splash in the Washington Post this past week after new findings. “Scientists in Houston on Wednesday released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious,” reported the paper. “The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.”
Fauci wanted to make clear what, exactly, that story meant. “I think also in that story was a demonstration that we want to make sure that people don’t misinterpret,” he said. “And that is, this is an RNA virus and RNA viruses tend to mutate easily because they don’t have a good proofreading mechanism when they replicate and mutate. So they continue to develop these mutations. Most of the times—overwhelmingly most of the time—those mutations are not associated with any functionally relevant change in the virus. The most recent one that was highlighted in that article was a mutation at amino acid number 614, which when they looked at it, they found out that it bound better to receptors. And therefore very, very likely would be better in transmission. They then looked at the epidemiological curves and they found that the evolution of that mutation coincided with big spikes in the number of cases.”
Fauci Says “You Gotta Double Down” on Public Health Measures
Fauci was asked about the new coronavirus mutation and he said “there are a lot of evolutionary virologists and others who say, you know, wait a minute, be careful, we don’t know what the cart of what the horse is”—meaning he didn’t know if the mutation was more contagious or if people got sick because we reopened the economy too early. “I’m not ruling out the possibility at all that this is making it more transmissible, which brings me to, again, a topic that we’ve discussed in the past privately is that this almost tells you why it’s even more important to do the things we’re talking about,” Fauci said. “Masks distancing, outdoors, more than indoors, avoiding crowds, washing hands. Cause if it’s more transmissible, you gotta double down on your public health measures.”
How to Avoid COVID-19
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.