Maryland has reported a new strain of the coronavirus that was first identified in South Africa. It became the only second US state to identify this new variant after the index, and the second case was first reported in South Carolina. According to experts, this variant can easily be transmitted to other persons.
A press release from Gov Larry Hogan’s office said the infected individual in Maryland was from Baltimore and had not been out of the country, making community transmission the likely explanation for the source of his infection. The statement noted that contact tracing efforts have already been put on top gear, with officials rushing to quickly identify, quarantine, and test such contacts.
An assessment by public health experts revealed that this particular strain of COVID-19 would result in the increasing surge of infections in the country, worsening a public health system that is already burdened with the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The new variant tagged the B.1.351 within the scientific community is believed to be more resistant to the existing vaccines produced by major pharmaceuticals. Researchers are also evaluating other strains from countries such as the UK and Brazil
The strain from the UK, tagged B.1.1.7, has been identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a likely dominant variant of COVID-19 that could become more prevalent in the US come March. Officials have already identified over 400 cases of this strain in the US. There could be more cases, though, as experts said that the contact tracing and testing approach for this variant has not been topnotch.
So far, the month of January has proved to be the grimmest since the pandemic began in the US, with more than 90,800 deaths occasioned by the coronavirus disease. The current death toll from COVID-19 stands at 438,200 – a figure that is predicted by experts to reach more than 594,600 before May 1. With the novel variants spreading in the country, that figure could surge astronomically to 620,000 by May 1.
Meanwhile, the CDC has given a sweeping order, mandating the use of facemasks on almost every public transport system as from February 1. This mandate would require that every passenger, no matter the mode of transport they adopt – airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, rideshares, wear facemasks before they’re afforded entry. This order extends to transport hubs such as airports, bus stations, train stations, and seaports.
On his second day in office, President Joe Biden had ordered government agencies to put in place guidelines that would require the use of masks in public transport systems.
The 11-page mandate was signed by Marty Cetron, a director with the CDC. He said this new order by the CDC would ensure the protection of Americans and bolster the confidence of every passenger to travel even in the pandemic.
Other Federal agencies are expected to submit their mask mandates by Friday in other to put in effect an order by Biden requiring masks in all federal buildings.