Still going to the grocery store? With new virus variants spreading, it's probably time to stop.
...Health experts say you should avoid optional trips whenever you can. You probably need a better mask, too.
Recent developments in the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed a grim reality: If we keep doing what we're doing now to prevent infections, we're screwed. Well, even more screwed.
That's because the virus appears to be getting even better at infecting us. Since at least December, new, more contagious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 have been outcompeting earlier versions of the virus in countries as far and wide as Brazil, the UK, and South Africa.
The advantage the new variants carry seems to be that in any given situation where people are gathered, they'll infect more people " an estimated 30 to 70 percent more in the case of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain, which has now been identified in 50 countries.
While these variants haven't been shown to be more deadly, a more transmissible virus is actually worse in many ways than a more lethal one. Cases snowball at a faster rate, Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch said on a recent press call. With a 50 percent rise in infectiousness, for example, "in less than two weeks, you get twice the number of cases," Lipsitch said. "And in a month or so, you have four, five times as many cases. But that's very approximate." The case growth could be even more dramatic, as Vox's Brian Resnick reported.
The implication is clear: If we want the pandemic to end as fast as possible, we need to pump the brakes right now. And we don't have to wait for the vaccines to slow the spread of the virus. We simply need to do what we've been doing all along to prevent infections, just much, much better. At an individual level, that means avoiding optional gatherings with other people " even grocery trips " whenever possible, or cutting them very short.
"Shopping for five minutes in the grocery store is a lot better " six times better " than shopping for 30 minutes," said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the odds of becoming infected rise the longer you're exposed. "Picking up groceries at the curbside is even better, and having them delivered is even better still." (If you're able to get groceries delivered or pick up curbside, it will also help reduce the risk for those who can't.)...