According to the Los Angeles Times, recent CDC analyses assessed two contending variants of the coronavirus. The B.1.427./B.1.429 variant, first identified in California, is now prevalent in that state and spreading further. But outside California, the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is claiming a much higher percentage of new transmissions.
A study published on March 15 in the British journal Nature concludes, “we estimate a 61% (42–82%) higher hazard of death associated with B.1.1.7. Our analysis suggests that B.1.1.7 is not only more transmissible than preexisting SARS-CoV-2 variants, but may also cause more severe illness.”
While overall US case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to decline, there are places going the opposite direction. In twenty-three states, the one week average of newly reported cases is higher than than the two-week average. As of March 18, Oregon daily case counts are up 8.1 percent, Vermont is up 9.9 percent, and Utah is up 15.4 percent. Daily fatalities have recently increased more than ten percent in both Oregon and Utah. There is concern that as B.1.1.7 claims more “market share”, that the United State could follow Europe into yet another wave of disease (more and more).
Vaccination rates are increasing in most of the US. Roughly three-quarters of US residents are regularly using face-coverings in public. According to credible indicators, however, US population mobility has substantially increased since mid-February. On Valentines Day Americans were circulating about one-third less than usual. By March 10 we were only 14 percent below pre-pandemic travel patterns. This is much more than just Spring Break trips. This suggests a change in behavior by millions.
Vigilance requires using every tool we’ve got. One-quarter to one-third self-restraint now will avoid thousands of hospitalizations — and two-thirds to three-quarters enforced restraint — later.