How to protect yourself and others from new COVID variants

JACKSON, Wyo. — Viruses generally acquire mutations over time, giving rise to new variants. The virus which causes COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV-2 virus) is no exception.

In mid-January, Teton County identified its first case of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020 and was associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections there.

Research suggests that, compared to other strains, smaller doses of the new B.1.1.7 variant are needed to transmit the disease. The UK variant and other emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as those first identified in South Africa and Brazil, have caused concern locally, nationally and globally.

The good news is that our tried and true public health mitigation strategies are effective against these variants that seem to spread more easily and quickly.

In order to protect yourself and others, it is crucial to double down on the same personal protective behaviors that have become standard practices throughout this pandemic:

  1. Wear a dry, two or three-layer mask.
  2. Restrict your movement throughout the community.
  3. Limit exposure to individuals who do not live in your household.
  4. Avoid crowded indoor spaces.
  5. Keep at least a six-foot distance between yourself and others.
  6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  7. Stay home and isolate if you are feeling sick or have tested positive.
  8. Stay home and quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

As these new strains have emerged, many have asked if the current vaccines will still provide protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.”

The Teton County Health Department is urging those who are currently eligible to receive their vaccine to register promptly. Those who aren’t yet eligible should check the vaccine webpage frequently for important updates.

After months of living among a global pandemic and having to drastically change our lifestyles, many of us have eased up on COVID safety precautions, but now is the time to try and restrict potential areas of exposure.

Until everyone in our community can receive the vaccine, we all need to practice the same safety measures on a daily basis. Everyone is ready for this chapter to come to an end, but we can’t do it without the help of each community member.

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