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Variants, curfew change and expected impact on COVID-19 cases in Northeast Ohio

COVID-19 vaccine efficacy could depend on virus' mutation rate
Posted at 6:19 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 18:45:14-05

CLEVELAND — Mutation. Variant. Words that, in the middle of the pandemic, may sound terrifying, but as different strains of the coronavirus begin to surface in Northeast Ohio, there’s a call for calm and continued awareness.

For those coming face-to-face with patients infected with COVID-19, there was a small but welcomed break as the hospitalization rate for those with the virus continues to decline across Ohio.

“It is a bit of a respite,” said Dr. Brian Harte, President of Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital.

Thursday at Akron General, the patient count was down to 61.

“To put that in perspective, in early January those numbers were close to 110,” said Harte.

Of course, we know that drop in hospitalizations is what prompted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to bump up the state's curfew an extra hour.

“Any aggregation of people, whether it’s til 10 or 11, in close, prolonged confines is exceedingly dangerous,” said Harte.

Harte said even though we may have an extra hour to be out, it's best we stay home as much as possible.

“And when you do get out, be sure you’re wearing a mask and be sure you’re staying at least 6 feet apart, regardless of the time of day,” said Harte.

Doctors like Harte are asking people to double-down on their efforts to control spread, as there's now one confirmed coronavirus variant in Northeast Ohio.

“There’s not cause for additional alarm right now because of these, they’re still circulating in very low numbers in the region,” said Dr. Christine Schmotzer, clinical pathology, University Hospitals.

Dr. Schmotzer said that so far, they've discovered the U.K. variant in just a handful of patients.

However, those people may more easily transmit the virus.

“That’s the biggest concern right now, the increased risk of spread,” said Schmotzer.

If it gets a foothold in Northeast Ohio, Schmotzer said the U.K. variant could become the more common strain and quickly send coronavirus case numbers the other way.

“Even if the virus itself is not more lethal on a case basis, there will be so many more cases, or there could be so many more cases that the results could be tragic,” said Harte.

Both doctors said that regardless of which form of the virus is out there, masking-up, staying apart and scrubbing our hands will continue to be effective in controlling the spread.

Right now, there are two other variants doctors at UH are keeping an eye on, but so far, the ones from South Africa and Brazil have not surfaced in Northeast Ohio.