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COVID-19 variant emerges in Ohio

COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed throughout the state and in our own region. We ran a page one story Friday about a vaccination complex that will be operating at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds. Other vaccination sites are up and running including at our local hospitals, senior living facilities and some pharmacies.

Health officials appear to have a good plan in place (if we all follow the guidelines) to start turning the corner in our fight against this virus. But Ohio State University researchers issued recently some disturbing news.

It turns out the virus is evolving quickly, and a new variant is so prevalent in our own backyards that it is known as the Columbus strain. It seems to spread more easily than its predecessor, and has become the dominant strain in testing in and around Columbus.

“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” Dr. Dan Jones, lead author of the study, said. The Columbus strain is one of two new variants OSU researchers believe originated in the United States.

A little frightening, isn’t it, that a variant that has figured out how to spread even more easily is so close to us? No dummies are these germs.

“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data,” Peter Mohler, chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and co-author of the forthcoming study said in a statement. “We need to understand the impact of mutations on transmission of the virus, the prevalence of the strain in the population and whether it has a more significant impact on human health.”

In fact it seems the best reaction at the moment is to double down on social distancing, wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and lining up for that vaccine as quickly as it is available to us.

More information is not a reason to panic. It is a reminder to keep behaving as though our mission is to stop the spread of this deadly virus, no matter how many variants pop up.

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