Home The latest on COVID-19: Virginia Tech researcher warns of ‘more variants to come’

The latest on COVID-19: Virginia Tech researcher warns of ‘more variants to come’

Chris Graham
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The prevalence of COVID-19 is on the wane, for now, according to CDC numbers, but the medical community remains vigilant, with researchers noting that the virus is constantly changing and mutating.

“We can expect more variants to come, and probably from the genomic standpoint, they are going to look more aggressive,” said Dr. Carla Finkielstein, director of the Molecular Diagnostics Lab at Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

The most recent data from the CDC, released on Oct. 15, shows that while Omicron BA.5 remains the dominant variant, representing 67.9 percent of infections, more contagious variants are spreading rapidly nationwide.

Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 represent 11.4 percent of all COVID-19 infections for the week ending Oct. 15, double what they were the previous week. The next CDC data release is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21.

The good news, again, for now, is that the number of COVID cases nationwide is far, far off its peak back in January.

The CDC reported 5.6 million U.S. COVID cases the week of Jan. 19. The most recent data, for the week ending Oct. 19, had 260,808 cases reported nationwide, less than 5 percent of the caseload at the peak.

Still, there are some in the medical community warning of a possible spike in cases later this fall and into the winter months, as we’ve seen the past two years.

Which is why you’re seeing the continued vigilance from the medical community.

“Genomic surveillance is critical to maintain the quality of tests available in the marketplace and to guide our response,” said Finkielstein, who conducts research on COVID-19 mutations and is following, not only BQ.1 and BQ1.1, but spinoff, immune-evasive variants.

One of growing concern is XBB, which represents two different strains of Omicron. The World Health Organization reports that XBB has been identified in 26 countries, including the U.S.

“The advantage is that we have highly effective vaccines and a large immunized population. If needed, new vaccines will be easy to customize,” Finkielstein said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].