AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — As more people get vaccinated, experts are becoming concerned about the U.K. variant (B-117) of COVID-19. 597 cases had been reported in Georgia as of Wednesday, while 118 had been confirmed in South Carolina.
“It really is survival of the fittest, and this variant out-competes the original one,” Dr. Rodger MacArthur, an infectious diseases physician at the Medical College of Georgia, says.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says the B-117 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States.” It is spreading quickly within children, which has not been as common with other strains of COVID-19.
“We are very much in a race against the even more widespread development of this new variant, which is even easier to infect and more contagious.”
In March, the CDC changed its recommendations for schools, saying children can be spaced out three feet apart in classrooms instead of six feet as long as they are wearing masks.
“Kids younger than 18-years-old get COVID-19 but not at very high rates,” Dr. James Wilde, a pediatric emergency physician at the Medical College of Georgia, explains. “When they do get it, it’s a very mild disease.”
“I think we have a national tragedy that we are watching here,” Wilde adds “Having kids out of school for a year and a half has not been a good thing.”
Research shows all three vaccines approved in the U.S. provide some protection against the U.K. variant, giving hope the next school year can be close to normal if vaccines are approved for children soon.
“We’re hoping by the next school year, parents and kids will decide it’s a good idea to get vaccinated,” MacArthur says.