After last year’s massive COVID-19 surge in Manaus, Brazil, many scientists believed the worst was over.
Then a worrying new variant came along, joining those discovered in South Africa and the UK, The Washington Post reports.
The variant’s appearance has coincided with another surge in Manaus that has crippled the city's health systems. Patients are arriving at hospitals significantly sicker and dying of asphyxiation for lack of medical oxygen.
The P.1 variant reportedly now makes up 85% of new infections in Manaus. It has also reached Japan and the US.
One Worrying Element: Like the South Africa variant, P.1 has an “escape mutation” that could help it sidestep coronavirus antibodies.
But don’t panic yet, top vaccine expert Paul Offit told STAT.
The key question is whether the variants can evade vaccines, which won’t be proven until fully vaccinated people become reinfected—or ideally, don’t, he said.
Double-up on Masks: Experts are advising to wear a cloth mask placed over a surgical mask, the Post also reports. Anthony Fauci says double-masking is “common sense” at this point in the pandemic—though the CDC has not officially changed its guidance.