New COVID-19 variant causing concern as cases continue to spread

With cold and flu season beginning, a new COVID-19 strain popping up in California could be making its way across the nation.

AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — With cold and flu season beginning, a new COVID-19 strain popping up in California could be making its way across the nation.

It’s something that, at this point, we know all too well. A new COVID-19 subvariant has been detected. Health officials out of California said that the BA-275 version subvariant cuts through all current vaccine protections as COVID continues to mutate and infect Americans.

Health experts are warning that the new strain is rendering all current vaccinations ineffective. Dr. Erika Hamilton with the UMass Amherst microbiology department told Western Mass News that the virus is at a stage where it wants to continue to infect as many people as possible.

“This is such a new virus that it’s almost trying to find its sweet spot in a way where it can infect us, make us sick, but we don’t die from it and we spread it and COVID can make more of itself,” Hamilton noted.

In western Massachusetts, the Eastfield Mall testing station is still up and running, but they said going into the colder months this year, they haven’t seen an uptick in visitors or positive tests.

“Consistently, over the past couple of months, we’ve been seeing anywhere from 150 to 200 people a day come to the site…At the beginning of this year, January of 2022, we were seeing thousands of people a day here during that surge right after Christmas,” said Mark Laprade with American Medical Response.

Hamilton added that the cold weather alone isn’t to blame for a potential spike in cases. It’s the winter travel and staying inside that makes the virus spread and continue to mutate. She told Western Mass News that, while the new strain is cutting through current vaccines, experts are at work on developing ways to slow down the spread.

“As we study the mutations that have developed in COVID over the past two years, can we predict or plan for mutations that can come up and develop vaccines around that? The same with antiviral drugs, are there different drugs that we can design that will be useful in people?” Hamilton said.

Hamilton added that this winter season, having at-home tests is crucial to stopping the spread because COVID-19 and flu symptoms are so similar. That way, you can make absolutely sure you have COVID-19 as opposed to the common cold.

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