Race Against Variants Continues As Health Experts Urge Vaccinations

The state is closely monitoring variants of COVID-19 while ramping up the vaccination schedule.

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Experts say we are in a race: a race against the COVID-19 variants and in order to win, they say more people need to get vaccinated before the variants spread.

According to state data, at least five variants of the COVID-19 virus have so far been detected in Connecticut.

“What’s causing the variants to occur is just random mutations. What’s causing them to spread are people,” said Quinnipiac Professor of Bio Medical Sciences Lisa Cuchara.

Cuchara said the people are the hosts for the virus. To slow the mutation, she said there’s only one answer.

“The sooner we get everybody vaccinated. The less of a worry that this has to be,” Cuchara said.

So far, more than a million Connecticut residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Still, in a state of 3.56 million, many remain.

According to data released Friday, there are 456 people hospitalized with COVID-19 but it’s difficult to say if any are because of variants.

“It takes time to know whether or not the patient has a variant,” said Dr. Virginia Bieluch. “All we know, when a patient comes in, is they have COVID-19 infection.”

The CDC has categorized variants in three classifications: variants of concern, high interest and of high consequence. In other words, low, medium, and high risk. Experts say none of the Connecticut variants are in the high-risk category currently.

Among the variants being watched is the so-called New York variant. Data shows this strain to account for about 22% of the state’s variant cases, although it has not yet been classified by the CDC.

“I think that we don’t know enough yet about that New York variant to categorize it,” said Bieluch.

As variant surveillance continues, health experts urge continued diligence.

“Even though we are completely tired of the pandemic and tired of the virus, the virus doesn’t care that we’re tired,” said Cuchara.

All people 16 and older will be eligible to schedule a vaccination appointment beginning April 1.

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