More states halt reopenings as COVID-19 cases surge
When the first corona virus cases appeared in Chicago back in January they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before. But HIS EGON Oser an infectious disease specialist at northwestern examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients. He noticed something different. A change in the virus was appearing again and again this mutation associated with the outbreaks in Europe and new. York City eventually took over Chicago by May. It was found ninety five percent of all the genomes that he sequenced. At a glance, the mutation seem trivial about thirteen hundred amino acids, service building blocks for a protein on the surface of the virus in the mutant virus, the genetic instructions for just one of those amino acids number six fourteen switched in the new variant from a D. which is shorthand for. Asset to a G, which is short for Lycene. But the location of that mutation was significant because the switch occurred in the part of the genome that codes for the all important spike protein. The spike protein is the protruding structure that gives the corona virus. It's crown like profile, which also gives its name the crown virus, and allows it to enter human cells the way a burglar picks lock. And Its ubiquity at this point is undeniable of the approximately fifty thousand genomes of the virus that researchers worldwide have uploaded into a shared database about seventy percent carry the new mutation, which is officially designated as D, Six fourteen g, but known more familiarly to the scientists on the front lines of this fight by one letter. G. G. Hasn't just dominated the outbreak in Chicago. It has taken over the world and now scientists are racing to figure out what it means. And how to stop it to of Our Star Science Writers Sarah Kaplan Join. Reported at least four lab experiments suggest that this mutation makes the virus significantly more infectious, although none of that work has yet been pure reviewed, another unpublished study led by federal scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory asserts that patients with the g variant actually have more virus in their bodies, making them more likely to spread it to others. The mutation does not. Does Not appear to make people sicker, but a growing number of scientists worry that it is making the virus more contagious. The scramble to unravel this mutation mystery embodies the challenges of science during the coronavirus pandemic with millions of people infected in thousands dying every day around the world, researchers strike a high stakes balance between getting information out quickly. And making sure that is right. The burglary analogy is when I found very helpful, because it really helps conceptualize what this virus is doing to our bodies, Joel likes to say that the coronavirus can be thought of as an extremely destructive burglar, unable to live or reproduce on its own. It breaks into human cells in coops, biological machinery to make thousands of copies of itself that leaves a trail of damaged tissue and triggers an immune system response that for some people for many people can be fatal, the so-called side kind store. This replication process is messy, even though it has a proofreading mechanism for copying its own genome, the coronavirus frequently makes mistakes. Those are the mutations. The vast majority of mutations have no effect at all on the behavior of the virus. But? Few genetic mutations could be more significant than the ones that affect the spike protein. That is the viruses lock pick the most powerful tool against us. The protein attached to a receptor on respiratory cells, called as to which opens the cell and let's the virus slip inside. The more effective despite protein, the more easily the virus can break into the bodies of its hosts, even when the original variant of the virus emerged in Wuhan China. It was obvious that the spike protein was already quite effective. But, it could have been even better. The spike protein for the coronavirus has two parts that don't always hold together well when you look at it under a microscope in the version of the virus that rose in China the outer part, which the virus needs to attach to a human receptor, frequently broke off equipped with this faulty lock pick. The virus had a harder time invading Ho cells. Studying both variations of the gene, using a proxy virus, in a Petri dish of human cells heireann show a virologist at scripts. Research found that viruses with the g variant had more spike proteins in the outer parts of those proteins were less likely to break off. In that research. The virus was ten times more infectious with that mutation. The good news is this. The mutation does not seem to lead to worse outcomes for patients, nor does it alter the viruses response to antibodies from patients who had the D variant? Suggesting again? This is great news that vaccines being developed based on the original version of the virus will be effective against the war infectious European strain. Identifying, emerging mutations allows researchers to track their spread, knowing what genes affect how the virus transmits enables public health officials to tailor their efforts to contain it wants therapeutics vaccines are distributed on a large scale. Having a baseline understanding of the genome will help pinpoint when drug-resistance inevitably starts to evolve. None of this unfortunately is a magic bullet, but experts say that understanding how the virus works will help respond better. Still, it's a race against time. And Right now. The virus is winning. And, that's the big idea. Here are three other headlines that should be on your radar. This Tuesday number one. US deaths are approaching one, hundred, twenty, five thousand. We expect to pass that number today and the total number of confirmed cases, here's top two and a half million amid worsening outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Arizona that are straining hospital capacity to the Limit Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and the host to the Republican National Convention in late. August announced that masks will now be mandatory in public and indoor locations. Vice President Pence plans to go ahead with plan travel this week to Florida and Arizona, even though cases are spiking, but Arizona Saul another record, high and hospitalizations days after trump visited the state for a raucous indoor rally where almost no one more mask. Florida's Rolling Seven Day. Average has risen by one hundred percent since week ago. Trump's former FDA commissioner Scott gottlieb warned last night. Night that the surging number of cases could result in nearly half our country infected with the virus by the end of the year and overall deaths are likely to return to more than one thousand per day. He predicts in fact, the number two at the CDC, told the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday that the US. has quote way too much virus to be. Be Able to contain it anymore and shoe cat said that we're no longer in a position like New Zealand or Singapore. South Korea, where new case can be rapidly identified, and all the context traced and people are isolated or sick and people who are exposed or quarantined, and that's how you keep things under control. She said instead. We have way too much virus across the country. Country for that right now. She described herself as very discouraged and added. This is really the beginning I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that hey, it's summer. Everything's GonNa be fine, but she added that she seemed quote a lot of worrisome factors over the last week or so and added quote. We are not even beginning to be over this. And, we're seeing that on the front lines. Los Angeles County health officials have issued a dire warning in the last twelve hours that conditions are rapidly deteriorating in the nation's most populous county as the virus spreads quickly, officials are warning that both public and private hospitals in the city of angels may soon be overwhelmed leading to triage. One factor that's alarming leaders in southern California. Is that corona virus patients are crossing the US Mexico border to seek medical care. Now, a lot of Americans seeking treatment. But the head of California's Emergency Medical Services Authority describes the stream of patients crossing the border back and forth as quote pouring gasoline on the fire. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey pushed back his plans to reopen public schools and has banned gatherings of more than fifty people. He also has closed down bars, nightclubs, movie, theaters and water parks. All of which he recently reopened as we discussed last week warning residents that we can no longer be under any illusion that the viruses going away on its own other hard hit states, including Tennessee and Georgia have put in place new stay at home. Orders extended them. There are so many unsettling stories just popping up across the country that it's hard to keep up more than two hundred people in West. Virginia were advised yesterday to quarantine after possibly being exposed to the virus will working out at a gym. New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy says plans to allow indoor dining or are going to be postponed indefinitely while New York Governor Andrew, Cuomo says his administration is reconsidering whether indoor dining can restart safely. New York City next week, which was going to happen as part of its phase three now this is a big blow for restaurant owners in the tristate region who've been preparing to reopen by hiring staff that they'd laid off and restocking their inventory as they teeter on the precipice of bankruptcy, a lot of that food may now need to be thrown away and Broadway's main theaters all said yesterday that they're going to remain shuttered until at least January and probably longer.