If Utahns let their guard down, variants of concern could cause ‘one last spike in cases before vaccination really puts this thing to bed’

Local News

FILE – This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The Centers for Disease Control reports the UK variant has become the most dominant COVID strain in the United States. Local health experts say circulating variants could cause a fourth surge if Utahns let their guard down too soon, but not to panic.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state tends to run a few weeks behind trends happening in eastern states.

“We have just enough time left right now, that if we let up too soon, we can get one last spike in cases before vaccination really puts this thing to bed for us,” said Stephen Goldstein, a University of Utah post-doctoral research associate in genetics.

The coronavirus has replicated 560 times in Utah, according to the Utah Department of Health.

The mutations of most concern are California variants, B-1427 and B-1429, totaling 47% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

The Uk variant hovering around 40 percent of cases, as of Thursday.

“We don’t want to see a big surge with these variants because they are more transmissible,” said health department spokesperson Jenny Johnson.

Knowing another surge could happen, Goldstein said he has a concern.

“People will take the lifting of the mask mandate next week as an indication that this thing is over – and we’re not quite there yet,” he said.

Johnson said that’s why the health department will keep reminding Utahns to take public health measures.  

“Wearing those masks and continuing to physically distance as much as possible if you’re not vaccinated is gonna help protect those who have not had a chance to be vaccinated from variants,” she said.

While highly transmissible, Goldstein and Johnson said not to panic, as current vaccines seem to work against the mutations.

“Do not let concern about these variants dissuade you from getting vaccinated. It actually just makes it that more important,” Goldstein said.

“That’s gonna make sure these variants don’t change and perhaps change in a way that now they are more deadly,” Johnson said.

If you are eligible for the vaccine and have not yet received it, Goldstein and Johnson encourage you to get it.

As of Thursday, 26 percent of Utah’s population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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