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Dr. Fauci Says New COVID Spreads Faster "From One Person to Another"

What that means, and what you should do now.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
Antibodies attacking SARS-CoV-2 virus

The mutated COVID-19 virus, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and has since been found in two U.S. states over the last week, seems to be easier to catch, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, on Wednesday. "It looks pretty clear" from UK research that "the transmissibility of this mutant is more efficient than the transmissibility of the standard virus that we've been dealing with up to now," said Fauci in an interview with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. "Namely, it's able to bind to the receptors on cells better, and therefore it's transmitted better." 

But the mutation doesn't seem to change the virus's most serious fundamentals.  "There's no indication at all that it increases the virulence, and by virulence, I mean, the ability to make you sick or kill you," said Fauci. "In addition, it doesn't seem to evade the protection that's afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines." UK researchers have also noted that people previously infected with coronavirus don't seem to get reinfected by the new strain. Read on for more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

These kinds of viruses "make a living out of mutating"

Fauci said that COVID-19 is one in a class called mRNA viruses, which survive by mutating; therefore, the fact that the coronavirus has mutated should not be considered shocking. 

"They make a living out of mutating," said Fauci. "They love to mutate. The more you replicate, the more you mutate. So when you have a lot of virus that's circulating in the community, it means that's infecting a lot of people, it's replicating a lot.

"The overwhelming majority of mutations are irrelevant," he explained. "They don't have any impact on any important function of the virus. Every once in a while you get a mutation that does impact a function of the virus. It appears … this particular mutation does in fact, make the virus better at transmitting from one person to another."

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This is why you need to get vaccinated when you can 

A more contagious virus is more difficult to contain, and more people need to get vaccinated to end the pandemic. 

At the same time, the Trump administration's COVID vaccine rollout is proceeding more slowly than expected. As of Wednesday night, just 2.7 million people had received the first of a two-dose shot. The government's goal had been for 20 million people to be vaccinated by the end of 2020.

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Going forward, health officials should "flood the system with testing," said Fauci. "We should put much more emphasis on community-type surveillance testing, so you get a feel for where you are with schools, with prisons, with nursing homes. 

"That's the way to go, because this virus is spread in a way that's without symptoms of many people, and you're not going to get to them by only testing people with symptoms."

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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