But exactly how much should we worry, given that so many in this condition have already been vaccinated or are on the threshold of eligibility? The truth is that it is difficult to say, even for experts.
So far, the best we can do is evaluate the data we have on the options. Here’s a quick look at what we know.
First, let’s look at the number of coronavirus cases involving the Massachusetts variants found so far. The CDC and the state say 977 cases with the British version, 82 cases with the Brazilian version and 1
The British version is the fourth highest in the United States, while the Brazilian version is the second largest.
Here is a county-by-county map of the State Department of Public Health where the cases were found.
Important note: These data do not represent the actual number of case variants. The genomic sequencing required to search for variants is performed only in a limited number of tests. The figures are “based on a sample of positive SARS-CoV-2 samples and do not represent the total number … of cases that may be circulating,” the CDC said.
Then let’s look at the share of different options in the country. Data from the CDC suggest that as of mid-March, the British option accounted for nearly one-fifth of the state’s cases, while two other official concerns, B.1.427 and B.1.429, or the California options, were second. most common.
Again, data from a limited number of tests come with a warning. The CDC notes, “The proportions of the variants do not represent the total number that can circulate.”
Data from a much different source provides another warning sign that options lurk in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Water Authority has found the British version in the wastewater at the Deer Island treatment plant.
Biobot Analytics of Cambridge, the company that tests for MWRA, says its testing has always been able to take coronaviruses, regardless of the option. But the company recently announced that it has added the ability to distinguish specifically when sampling has taken the British version. The days on which a variant is found are shown in green in the diagram.
The focus on the British option is understandable, given its predominance among the options. It is also about 60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to recent estimates.
At the national level, the CDC also takes into account the number of cases of options by country, broken down by the three best-known options of concern.
The same warnings apply to restricted tests.
Using data from genomic sequencing tests, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute calculated a national assessment of the proportion of coronavirus cases caused by variants of concern and variants of interest, a less worrying category.
This chart suggests that variants of concern were involved in about one-third of all current coronavirus cases nationally by mid-March.
The CDC’s efforts to track the spread of coronavirus variants came under fire earlier this year. But they have improved significantly in recent weeks and are expected to continue to improve, largely due to $ 1.75 billion in genomic sequencing in the stimulus package.
Still, testing the options needs to be more systematic, more extensive and more nuanced, said Dr. Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health TH Chan.
The overall picture, however, is clear. The British, South African and Brazilian versions are being imposed in the United States, stressing the need for people to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread, he said.
“The message from the top line is quite consistent. The prevalence of anxiety options is increasing. And that’s argued for continued vigilance over the next few weeks, even when the vaccine is released ahead of schedule, “Tsai said. “We’ve come a long way, but we still haven’t come out of the woods.”
Amanda Kaufman of Globe staff contributed to this report. Globe wire services materials are used in this report.
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