Over the past few months, new variants of the coronavirus have started to emerge from the U.K. to South Africa and Brazil. A new strain recently discovered in California might be behind why our state experienced such a dramatic surge in numbers over the holiday season. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, researchers found the new strain while looking for signs that a highly transmissible variant from the United Kingdom had established itself here. Instead, they found a new branch of the virus’ family tree with distinctive mutations that may have helped it to spread faster.

Scientists are still studying what the differences are in these mutations, and how they affect us, the general consensus is that while none of the new variants have been associated with new or different symptoms, the differences may be seen in the way they spread, making it very important to stick to protocols set up to help stop the spread.  

Travel bans due to coronavirus variants

President Biden recently instated travel bans for foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. from countries where the new variants have been reported. These include the U.K. and Ireland, Brazil and South Africa–all locations where the new virus strains seem to be coming from.

According to the CDC, there are also currently travel bans for non-U.S. citizens coming from China, Iran and a large portion of Europe, including Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia and more.

How will the new coronavirus mutations affect us?

According to experts quoted in an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine, although mutations may enable the coronavirus to spread faster from person to person, and more infections can result in more people getting very sick, overall, there is not yet clear evidence that any of these variants are more likely to cause severe disease or death.

One of the biggest questions is most likely how will this affect our country in our progress toward attaining herd immunity? Scientist and medical experts are saying that the fact that these variants exist and are spreading doesn’t automatically lengthen the path to herd immunity, but it does make adherence to COVID-19 safety practices essential for progress toward getting back to normal.

What we can do

At this stage, one thing remains clear, we must hold the course when it comes to sticking to existing methods of preventing transmission of COVID-19. This includes masking, maintaining social distance, regular hand hygiene and getting vaccinations when you’re eligible.

How the internet can support your health

In the meanwhile, if you have any questions about your healthcare, or concerns about COVID-19 and the health of your family, consult your doctor. Healthcare pivoted strongly to provide safe and effective online resources to support ongoing healthcare needs. Doctors are meeting with patients via video appointment calls, online portals give you access to all medical records as well as current updates and recommendations. You can schedule visits, send email communications, and make sure you stay in touch with the resources you need to stay informed and in touch throughout this pandemic by simply using the internet resources available to you.