Lubbock health leaders address COVID-19 variant

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LUBBOCK, Texas — As cases and deaths continue to rise across the country, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting a rise in cases caused by COVID-19 variants.

“Viruses do not stay the same,” Dr. Victor Test, Chief of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care Division and Director of Medical ICU at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said.

The CDC reports the coronavirus is mutating, with different variants reported across the globe, like the United Kingdom variant (B.1.1.7), the South African variant (1.351), and the Brazilian variant (P.1).

“In the United States we’ve only detected the U.K. Variant so far,” Test said.

Across the nation, about 122 cases of the variant have been reported, with three in the Lone Star State.

“This variation is more infectious, so you’ll see more people infected, it does not appear to have more severe infections,” Dr. Test said.

Most researchers report the U.K. variant is about two times more infectious than the coronavirus we know now.

“That’s a big deal because the coronavirus that we have been dealing with all along has been very infectious to start with,” Dr. Test said.

Director of Public Health for the City of Lubbock, Katherine Wells, said the U.K. variant will still result in a positive test, but to test for the variant is a different process. She said the state randomly picks samples before moving to the next step.

“They have to be tested at a facility that will submit the testing specimen if positive for further genotyping,” Wells said.

Testing positive still calls for the same treatment, and requires the same amount of time in quarantine, Well said. She added that because the variant is so infectious, she wouldn’t be surprised if it were already in the Hub City.

“Our citizens around here tend to travel a lot, move around so I anticipate that we will get it here at some point,” Wells said.

Both healthcare experts said for that reason, it’s important to continue to wear a mask, social distance and get vaccinated. Dr. Test said more infections of the variant could lead to a further strain on our healthcare workers.

“If it infects more people then of course we’ll have more deaths and more hospitalized patients than we currently have which we’re already at maximum capacity, so it is a concerning development,” Dr. Test said.

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