New Coronavirus Variant Sweeping Through NYC

THURSDAY, Feb. 25, 2021 (HealthDay News) — A new coronavirus variant that’s sweeping through New York City has a mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines, two new studies claim.

The new variant is called B.1.526 and was first detected in samples gathered in the city in November. By the middle of February, it accounted for about one-quarter of viral sequences appearing in a database used by scientists, The New York Times reported.

One study was conducted at Columbia University and the other was led by a group at Caltech. The Columbia study hasn’t been made public but the Caltech study was posted online Tuesday.

Neither study has been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

“It’s not particularly happy news,” Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University, told theTimes. “But just knowing about it is good because then we can perhaps do something about it.”

Nussenzweig, who wasn’t involved in the new studies, said he’s more concerned about the variant in New York than the one that’s rapidly spreading in California.

Another variant that was originally identified in Britain is expected to become the most common form of the coronavirus in the United States by the end of March, the Times reported.

U.S. Government to Distribute Millions of Face Masks

Millions of cloth face masks will be distributed in certain U.S. communities to ensure equity in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House announced Wednesday.

It said the masks will be sent to underserved communities and those hardest hit by the pandemic, and will be distributed through Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and food bank and food pantry systems, the Associated Press reported.

More than 25 million U.S.-made masks in both adult and kid sizes will reach 12 million to 15 million people, according to the White House.

“Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly, not all have access, and not all masks are equal,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, the AP reported.

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