COVID-19 Variant Case Rates Low But Steady In Arizona

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 3:39pm
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Arizona State University
Joshua LaBaer

With just over 313,000 Arizonans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the state has a lot of ground to cover before it reaches the millions needed for herd immunity.

But a more transmissible coronavirus variant might just move the goalposts.

Since November, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute has detected three to seven cases per week of coronavirus variants in Arizona — likely the U.K. variant B.1.1.7.

"We have seen a couple of other types of variants slip in there, but it gives you some sort of sense of the kind of max numbers we might see in the state," said Biodesign Director Joshua LaBaer.

"The U.K. variant, the South African variant, the Brazilian variant — it still seems to prevent severe illness in those individuals. And that's important news."

Though those numbers remain steady, experts predict B.1.1.7 could dominate in the U.S. by March and raise the vaccination rate needed for herd immunity by 10-15%.

But there is some good news.

"Those vaccines appear to be effective at preventing severe illness among individuals who've acquired the variants," said LaBaer.

LaBaer says 80% of Arizonans have never been exposed to, or vaccinated against, the virus and remain at risk.

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