mask mandates return new variant public health institution worried

Science and Health

Coronavirus cases began rising this week as a new variant begins to make waves with a significant uptick in hospitalizations due to the virus.

The variant called BA.2.86 was first detected in the United States, Denmark, and Israel last week. Additional cases were detected in the UK which were highly similar to the sample found in Denmark.

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a risk assessment of the virus. According to the existing data current tests used for the detection of and medication used to treat the new variant remain effective.

BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who were previously infected with COVID-19 or received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC remains confident that the updated COVID-19 vaccine will still be effective against this newest strain, additionally, the updated vaccine will still be effective at reducing severe disease symptoms and hospitalization.

A man wearing a face-mask walks past The National Covid Memorial Wall, on national day of reflection to mark the two year anniversary of the UK going into national lockdown, in London (credit: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA)

“At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness. That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed. CDC will share more as we know more,” announced the CDC at the end of its risk assessment.

CBS reported that COVID hospitalizations were up 22% this week and that they were expected to keep rising, with Georgia COVID hospitalizations up 30%.

A return to mask mandates?

Several American institutions have begun reinstating mask mandates as a result of the new variant’s infectiousness.

Morris Brown College in Atlanta announced that it was reinstating mask mandates as well as imposing restrictions on event sizes and resumed efforts to trace infections.

Lionsgate movie Studios in Los Angeles also announced a return to mask mandates, reinstating a mandate for its in-office employees, after a large number of employees tested positive, according to CBS.

Whether the efforts to remask Americans will be successful remains to be seen, although American public health officials began calling for people to start wearing masks this week as a preventative measure.