UVA Health doctor warns people about contagious COVID-19 variants

UVA Health doctor warns people about contagious COVID-19 variants
(FILE) (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - More than one million Virginians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but with variants spreading in communities, experts warn of another possible wave of sicknesses.

“The virus is still circulating. So even without new variants there’s a risk that by relaxing our social distancing and mask wearing that we can see a fourth wave,” William Petri, an infectious disease doctor at UVA Health, said.

Even though coronavirus cases in the Blue Ridge Health District are low, Petri warns about a contagious variant in the commonwealth.

“The fact that we have this new variant, the U.K. variant, that is one-out-of-every-five infections in Virginia. Probably will be almost every infection, like within a month or so will be the U.K. variant in Virginia, and that’s more transmissible,” Petri said.

The three vaccines work well against the U.K. variant, but Petri says not so much against other ones.

“The vaccines are less effective against the South African variant, so that’s the difference,” Petri said. “We’re not through this pandemic yet. It’s another reason to keep our guard up.”

Petri says in order to block pandemic-like transmission, three-out-of-four people need to be immune from COVID-19. That’s why continuing to practice mitigation strategies is key.

“We’re not out of the third wave really either. There are still like 50,000 cases a day in the U.S. Even without a new variant, the ancestral virus is quite possible to cause a new wave if we stop masking and social distancing, all of these things that work until we have everyone vaccinated,” Petri said.

Petri says even with these variants, the end is in sight. He predicts that by the Fourth of July, we will reach herd immunity.

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