Fans of the Jurassic Park will remember one of the most memorable lines of the movie franchise: “Life finds a way.” Even viruses struggle to find a way to avoid being destroyed by their environment.
It appears the novel CoronaVirus has mutated.
Some viruses, like the measles, hardly change at all. That’s the reason that vaccination we received when we were children keeps protecting us decades later. Other viruses, though, like the coronaviruses MERS and SARS, mutate quickly. So keeping up with the changes they go through is important. The longer a coronavirus circulates among people, the longer it has to adapt itself to humans in ways good for it– and probably bad for us.
The recent spike in new infections in the Houston area prompted a closer look at the virus and how it may be reacting to people who successfully fight it off. Remember, many more people have recovered from coronavirus than have died. But viruses of this sort fight back. And a new study from the Houston Methodist Hospital says SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is mutating as it adapts to defend itself against the human body’s immune system. In a word, a more infectious mutation of the coronavirus has emerged.
Long before COVID-19 hit the scene– back in June of 2014– Dr. Anthony Fauci told Susannah Locke of Vox.com: “The more humans that get infected, the greater the chances of [a coronavirus] adapting itself to humans.”
Most virus mutations are of little to no consequence. But every now and then a change happens that helps the virus survive — like the bird flu mutating just enough to allow it to jump to human beings. COVID-19, whatever its origins, has already made that jump.
The study, published Wednesday on the MedRxiv website, found that 99% of the samples in the second wave of infections that started in late May carried a mutation identified as “D614G.” D614G is connected to the Gly614 amino acid “that has been linked to increased transmission and infectivity.”
Our mutated coronavirus, then, is more infectious than it was before.
Consider the deadly Spanish Flu of 1918– the worst pandemic in modern history– which killed as many as 50 million people worldwide: it had a fatality rate of only 2 percent. The reason the Spanish Flu was so deadly is that the infection numbers were so high. While the fatality rate for COVID-19 is arguably higher than 2 percent (about 3% based on confirmed infected, confirmed recovered, and of course, confirmed dead), even at 2% this pandemic is on par with the Spanish Flu. Imagine the number of deaths if the same number of people were to become infected. Plainly put: the more people infected, the more people die.
So it makes absolutely perfect sense to keep the numbers of people infected to a minimum. Any argument to the contrary is mathematically inane, even though “business owners got to do business.” In the midst of a pandemic, the business that business owners do must be done responsibly or infections will begin to rise again. And one would think that a government “for the people” ought to be leading that charge.
Not in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to move to “Phase 3” of reopening, where every business is essentially mandated to be at least 50% open with no real requirements for masks or social distancing, seems mind-boggling– especially if you consider the possibility that a mutated coronavirus could show up in Florida (or any other state) at any given time. But if you couple that decision with a visit by the Trump campaign just 2-3 days before, it is easy to reason that the GOP has decided to put politics over people in this critical electoral state.
In a country where titans of industry regularly compare the cost of paying wrongful death damages to the cost of replacing defective or dangerous products, it is not completely surprising to see human life devalued once again. How much does it cost to require people to wear masks and to keep 6 feet away from one another? #ALLLIVESMATTER.
While I sincerely hope no one else becomes infected, it truly will be a miracle if it doesn’t happen. And for every 100 new infections, on average there will likely be at least two people dead.
Thanks Ron. Thanks Don. Way to go.
*UPDATED to correct typographical error. “10” changed to “100” in last paragraph.