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New COVID Variants are Raising Concern in These States

Learn why experts are concerned about emerging new COVID variants and how to stay safe. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There's growing concern in Colorado about new COVID variants emerging that are dodging immunity and health officials are closely watching the situation. According to Axios Denver, local scientists are monitoring BF.7, which they believe to be highly contagious and according to CBS News, "BA.4.6 and BF.7 – have raised concerns because they might evade the protection offered by a key antibody drug used to shield immunocompromised Americans who might not be able to get immunity from vaccination known as Evusheld."

In addition, CBS reports, "BF.7 has one additional genetic change in the gene coding for the Spike protein in comparison to parental BA.5 lineage viruses. Data indicates that this specific genetic change could reduce the efficacy of Evusheld," CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed told CBS News in a statement. Reed said that so far "there is no indication that vaccines or diagnostic tests" are affected by BF.7's mutations. The CDC says "3.4% of cases nationwide are now from BF.7. 12.8% are from BA.4.6. BF.7's proportion is largest in New England, where the CDC says 5.7% of new infections are linked to the variant. The CDC has also detected the variant in passengers flying from France."

Colorado officials are urging people to stay healthy by staying up to date on their vaccines and boosters and it looks like it's working. Axios Denver states, "8.9% of eligible residents have been boosted with the latest shot, representing about 344,000 doses — up from 5.3% a week earlier." However there is still concern because, "Roughly 30% of Coloradans who have caught the virus are estimated to have long COVID, per the latest figures from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. That means about 494,000 Coloradans are living with long-term symptoms like brain fog, hair loss and mental health issues, as medical researchers search for a cure to long COVID nearly three years into the pandemic." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


The New Booster is Key in Fighting COVID

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a new booster to help protect against COVID variants and CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H said in a statement, "The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it."

According to Axios Denver, Colorado's health department and the Colorado School of Public Health "published an updated statewide COVID modeling report earlier this month, which shows a variety of scenarios for the remainder of the year, including hospitalizations rising "steeply" by December if a new variant arrived in late September. Whether the state sees a surge as the temperatures fall depends on the prevalence of emerging variants and how many Coloradans receive the retooled Omicron booster, experts advise.

"This latest modeling report … highlights the unpredictability of our upcoming fall and winter respiratory virus season," said state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy. "The best thing Coloradans can do right now to protect themselves is to get both a flu vaccine and … Omicron dose when they are eligible."


COVID Hospital Cases in Colorado Have Increased

Syringe with vaccine medicament injection for vaccination inoculation cure health and research stuff.

Axios Denver is reporting, "COVID-19 hospital demand increased last week, but health officials say patient volumes remain relatively low — at about 10% of previous highs. If a new variant doesn't arise, model simulations indicate a decline in hospital demand over the next 12 weeks."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week at an event with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism that while we are heading "in the right direction," that could change. "We should anticipate that we very well may get another variant that would emerge that would elude the immune response that we've gotten from infection and/or from vaccination."


Why New Variants Keep Emerging

Man lying on bed at home, high fever and coughing.

David Souleles, MPH, Director of the COVID-19 Response Team at the University of California, Irvine tells us, "Viruses mutate as part of their evolution to stay alive and those mutations can occur when the COVID-19 virus is transmitted from person to person. So, as long as the virus that causes COVID-19 is able to spread from person to person, we run the risk of new variants emerging that may be more transmissible, less susceptible to current vaccines, and more harmful.  That is why the new bivalent booster was developed, to target the omicron variant strains better than the original vaccine."

Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself explains, "The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID has shown itself to be wildly capable of generating new variants, which makes the disease a moving target. So far, these mutations have caused the coronavirus to be more easily transmitted, but fortunately the acute illness it causes is far milder that it initially was in 2020. But the more virus that is transmitted, the more the mutated variants can spread widely, leading to even more opportunity to create more subvariants. The almost universal dismissal by the general public, and by public health authorities, of even simple precautions that can control the spread of COVID is helping this virus gain a big advantage against humans."


What to Know About the Emerging Variants

Young woman sitting alone on her sofa at home and coughing.

According to Dr. Li, "There are a growing number of new subvariants — more than a dozen — almost all coming from mutations in the original omicron subvariant. So far, the severity of disease seems more similar to omicron which was less dangerous for most people, but there are millions of vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, for whom COVID can still cause severe illness and death. The big concern is the number of mutations that are ganging up on some of the subvariants, which can make them more resistant to the antivirals like Paxlovid and Evusheld that have been developed, as well as better able to dodge the natural immunity of past COVID infections. For this reason, it is smart to get the latest booster vaccine to have the best protection against the hospitalization and death."

Souleles says, "New  variants will continue to emerge as long as the virus that causes COVID-29 is able to spread from person to person.  What is important to focus on is the steps that people can take to protect themselves and their communities are the same regardless of variant and we have seen these strategies work across variants throughout the pandemic."

Dr. Benjamin Alli, MD/ PhD Sakellerides professor and author of Not Just Covid, which comes out later this month, tells us, "Some new variants may in fact be recumbent variants reinfecting areas through travel like international flights. Other factors might include less fear since we first learned of the crises and a desire to leave the home. Nonetheless, this may all cause a need to take getting another vaccine more seriously."


How to Stay Healthy

Young woman in a medical mask lies in bed.

Souleles recommends, "Knowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Level for your community and follow recommendations from the CDC based on your community's level and to get vaccinated with an initial series of the COVID-19 vaccine, and if it has been more than 2 months since your last initial series dose or your last booster dose, get the bivalent booster as recommended by CDC."

In addition, Souleles give the following tips for staying safe:

-"Test the day before travel or attending large events or gatherings and again three to five days after travel or attending a large event or gathering and if you test positive follow CDC guidelines for isolation.

-Stay home if you are sick and test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and  if you test positive follow CDC guidance for isolation.

-Consider wearing a well fitting mask when recommended or required in your community, particularly if you are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications or your community is seeing a high level of community transmission.

-Wash your hands. As we move into the cold and flu season frequent hand washing can help prevent colds and flu as well as COVID-19. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather