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Virus Expert Warns of Possible "New Outbreak" in This City

"We don't understand what 1.526 is, whether or not people are being reinfected with it."
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
new york outdoor dining

Does a COVID-19 vaccine mean you won't get COVID again? Perhaps not, warns former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb—who sits on the board of Pfizer as well as Illumina. During an interview with Margaret Brennan this morning on Face the Nation, he said he's "still concerned" about a new variant in New York City, called B.1.526. Read on to see how you can stay safe—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Dr. Gottlieb Warns That New York City Has a New Variant We Don't Yet Know Enough About

Of the NYC variant, Gottlieb says: "I'm still concerned about it. We're seeing cases and hospitalizations go down across New York. So that's a good sign. Although testing has also plummeted when you look in certain parts of New York, Brooklyn, parts of Queens, parts of Staten Island, the positivity rate's approaching 15%. So you're seeing a lot of infection, surging and pockets of New York City, but we don't understand what 1.526 is, whether or not people are being reinfected with it. And whether or not people who might've been vaccinated are now getting infected with it."

"One of the concerns about this particular variant," he continued, "is that it has that mutation. That's also in the South African variant, the 1.351 variant that we know in certain cases is causing people who've already had coronavirus to get reinfected with it. And so the question is, is whether 1.526 is responsible for some of the increases that we're seeing in New York right now. And whether this is the beginning of a new outbreak inside the city—we're just not very good right now at collecting the cases and linking it back to the clinical experience. So we need to step in much more aggressively and start sequencing cases, especially people who report that they either were previously vaccinated already had COVID."

Who would do that, asked Brennan?

"The CDC—I mean, they need to work with the New York City public health department, but the city alone isn't going to have the resources to do this on a systematic basis. I think they're going to step in and start to do that, but they need to be aggressively marketing to doctors, asking doctors to come forward and report cases where they're seeing situations where people were previously infected with COVID may be getting reinfected. We don't know that's happening, but anecdotally, some doctors are reporting that now, and that could potentially explain why you're seeing an upsurge in cases."

Dr. Gottlieb Said We Likely Won't Have a Fourth Wave, but Be Careful

"When it comes to B 1.1.7, the variant first detected in the UK, Dr. Fauci has said this week, it's about 30% of us infections and it's what, 50% more transmissible. It's also potentially more lethal. When you see these pictures of these Spring Break gatherings in Florida and elsewhere—does that make you rethink your projections here and worry about a fourth wave?" asked Brennan.

"Well, I don't think we're going to have a fourth wave," answered Gottlieb. "I think the fact that we have so much prior infection—120 million Americans have been infected with this virus. The fact that we've now vaccinated, we've gotten a one-shot and at least 70 million Americans. Even if you account for the fact that maybe about 30% of the people being vaccinated previously had COVID, we're talking about some form of protective immunity and about 55% of the population. So there's no kind of a backstop here that I don't think you're going to see a fourth surge. I think what you could see as a plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline in large part, because B 1.1.7 is becoming more prevalent in large part because we're pulling back too quickly with respect to taking off our masks and lifting the mitigation. But I still don't think that it's going to be enough to create a true fourth wave."

"Maybe we'll see an uptick in certain parts of the country," he said. "The only thing that can be a real game changer here is if we have a variant that pierces prior immunity, meaning it reinfected people who've either already been infected or who have been vaccinated like…the one in Brazil. We don't know right now, we need to get better at determining these things."

For now, wear your mask and get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.

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