PHAC eyeing COVID-19 variant evolution as fall resurgence looms – WSJ: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday said it had expanded its efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak to include a drug and vaccine that protect against a COVID-19 variant that is less deadly than the current strain.
But the virus is still spreading, and scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that the number of deaths could rise by more than 10% if the new variant or “super-spreader” of the virus is widespread. The virus can mutate, and there’s still no vaccine or cure.
The virus has caused more than 30,000 cases and resulted in more than 635 deaths in the United States as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.
Health officials are still trying to determine whether the virus is transmissible from person to person, so that people who aren’t sick can pass it on to others without fear of becoming sick.
In the meantime, health officials have warned people of the virus’s potential to become transmissible from person to person.
A preliminary analysis of what’s known about the virus, including the most recently discovered strain, suggests that it’s similar to other coronaviruses, including SARS, MERS and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, which have killed hundreds of people and triggered a global health crisis.
The virus emerged from South Korea and infected more than 50,000 people, most of them in China. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency in February.
The newly discovered virus differs from previous SARS coronavirus, known to cause severe pneumonia in people, because it had been seen infecting bats, the report said.
The U.S. health department said that its new approach could have far-reaching benefits.
“We are already on the cusp of developing a vaccine candidate,” the agency said. “The new approach will bring together the strengths of public health, industry, academia, and private sector partners who can take advantage of a collaborative approach to develop a vaccine with a wide range of protection for all risk groups.”
The strategy was described in an executive order signed by President Trump last week, outlining steps for preventing the spread of the virus and getting sick people home from their jobs.
The executive order, signed on