EXCLUSIVE: COVID-19 is mutating, and why we could be in a better place to handle the second wave

COVID-19

When you look at the daily breakdown of numbers surrounding COVID-19, in this second wave, they tell avery different tale from the first onslaught of the virus.

The number of new cases each day is higher, but the number of people in hospital is lower than the spring, as is the number of people in ICU and on ventilators.

Even the daily deaths from COVID-19, continue to be significantly lower than during the first wave.

But why?

"The short answer is COVID is changing in many ways," says Dr. Andrew Badley, an infectious disease specialist and head of the COVID task force at the Mayo Clinic. "We now know better when to hospitalize patients, how to treat them when they are in hospital in terms of providing oxygen and mechanical ventilation."
 
But he also says, not as many people are being sent to hospital, as soon as they get a positive test result. Some are being told to self-isolate at home instead.

"Many of those people, especially those without risk factors, will do just fine."

And Dr. Badley also the virus itself, is changing.

"What we're starting to see is that there's a variety of different viral strains circulating, and some are more infectious and some are less infectious."

He says there's one strain that has mutated which shows that it could be more infectious that the first version of COVID-19. But a second one is actually missing a gene, which is a good thing, since that gene usually blocks your immune response.

"That allows for a more robust immune response, and early reports suggest that people who get that virus are less likely to get sick than if people get the original virus," says Dr. Badley.

It all sounds pretty promising. So, should be ease restrictions and allow people to live life as normal?

Not yet. Dr. Badley calls those restrictions "very necessary," mostly because of people who don't follow the rules.

"If everybody who had coronavirus infection, number one knew they had it, and number two was compliant with the self-quarantine, then it would be safer to not lock down our society. However, none of those two conditions are present right now."