Health Experts Watching COVID Variant Closely As It Spreads To All 50 States

CHARLOTTE, NC – Health officials are monitoring the spread of COVID variants and the impact it’s having on children under the age of 16.

“If we let our guard down, that’s going to cause us to go backwards,” said Dr. Meg Sullivan, the Mecklenburg County Medical Director.

Sullivan urged people to get the vaccine all the while continuing to wear masks and distance. She says new COVID variants can spread quickly.

“At the same time that I think people are starting to feel better about where we are and start letting down their guard. That raises the concern that we’re not out of the woods yet and we could start to see those cases go up and that makes me very nervous,” said Sullivan.

The B117 variant originated in the UK, but is now in all 50 states. The CDC says there are now more than 15,000 cases of this variant.

“It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Experts say children are also spreading the virus more than previously thought.

“What we’re seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated, and also in school-aged children,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner.

The B117 variant is said to be 70% to 100% more infectious and it’s at least 50% to 60% more likely to cause severe disease..

“This is what viruses do. They mutate as a way to increase their chance of survival,” said Dr. Sullivan.

Dr. Sullivan says vaccines, masks, and distancing are the best way to control the spread and return to normal as cases plateau.

“That’s something that we continue to watch really closely. They are lower than where they were in December and January, but they are still not where we want them to be,” said Sullivan.

She says the good news is that the vaccines are proving to be very effective in stopping the variant spread.