LA COVID-19 cases down but UK variant creates bigger risk

Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 8:57 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Two more confirmed cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 have been found in Louisiana, one of them right here in the New Orleans area.

Even though the normal case numbers are going down, health officials say this is a risky time for transmission.

Eight other possible UK variant cases are being investigated in the New Orleans area. We know it’s here, but on what kind of scale?

It’s definitely something April Springer and Annie Joseph are aware of. The two North Carolina women made a COVID-cautious pit stop at City Park in their cross country travels.

“I think that we need to think a lot more about being preemptive with this new variant,” Springer said.

That’s the message the Governor and the state health department want to get across. Although our numbers are down, we’re still not in a good spot to deal with more contagious variants.

“All those baseline numbers are too high and we need to get them down before this variant becomes predominant and potentially causes surges again,” Governor John Bel Edwards said.

Dr. Julio Figueroa, LSU Health Chief of Infectious Diseases, says we need to double down on our personal preventative measures, especially with Mardi Gras around the corner.

“We’re starting at a high level, so that ability to transmit is going to be even higher,” Figueroa said.

The problem with detecting the UK, Brazilian or South African variant is that we don’t have the resources to sequence each positive result.

Figueroa says that kind of testing is going to be more important as we move to get everyone vaccinated.

“What we’ve seen is that the vaccines seem to work reasonably well, some more than others in terms of the different variants, but there may be coming a time where that might not be the case,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa says some variants are less responsive to antibody treatments.

“If there’s a slight change in that virus where the binding site of that antibody is, it’s not going to work,” Figueroa said.

There’s been studies and discussion surrounding double masking to protect yourself against the new strains and Figueroa says there might be something to consider if you wear tight fitted masks.

“It’s not so much to the variants that require the double masking, it’s just that because of the contagion, we’re more likely to get infection if we get exposed,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa says not to panic however, we always knew the virus was going to change.

“It’s important to be flexible in that and to be able to mold your view on the time based on whatever is going on and be able to, you know, I need to wear two masks, well, I’m going to wear two masks,” Joseph said.

Figueroa also says even if you’ve been vaccinated you still have to wear a mask, wash your hands and distance because, especially with the variants, we don’t know if you can still carry the virus and spread it to others.

There’s much still unknown about the different strains.

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