Arizona health expert says new virus mutation may already be in the US

Dec 23, 2020, 6:00 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm

PHOENIX – A prominent Arizona health expert says a mutation of the coronavirus recently discovered in the United Kingdom may already be in the United States but it’s not worrying.

Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos & Chad Show on Tuesday that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus mutates all the time, but the latest mutation is believed to make it easier for the virus to transmit.

“It’s decent evidence that the change has made this virus potentially easier to transmit because it makes it easier for the virus to latch on to your cells in the respiratory system and latch onto the part of the cell that lets it in so it can replicate its RNA,” Humble said.

The United Kingdom identified the variant, which has been discovered mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, and has taken precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus by implementing stricter lockdown measures.

Other European countries and Canada have closed their borders in response to the discovery.

Humble, who was formerly the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, noted that while the mutation of the virus may already be in the United States and even Arizona, the coronavirus vaccine should still work against it.

“I’m not super concerned about it and I’m not concerned that it’s going mess up the vaccine either,” Humble said.

The news of the coronavirus mutation comes as the United States and Arizona continue to see surging coronavirus numbers. On Tuesday, Arizona health officials reported 5,859 new coronavirus cases and 153 additional deaths bringing the documented totals to 467,215 COVID-19 infections and 8,125 fatalities.

Humble said with people traveling and gathering for Christmas, January is almost a lock to be the worst part of the pandemic so far.

That projection is unlikely to change unless leaders like Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ enact meaningful change to the slow the spread of the virus, Humble said.

“The virus responds to policy decisions that elected officials make that drive better decisions among the public,” Humble said.

“It’s going to keep getting worse because I don’t think that the governor nor Dr. Christ have the interest in doing any kind of interventions that will make it demonstrably difference.”

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Arizona health expert says new virus mutation may already be in the US