Viruses constantly mutate, so new variants are to be expected. Sometimes new variants appear and simply go away, while others stay around. We know that there are multiple COVID-19 variants in the United States and across the world at this time.
COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus. This field of study is helping scientists understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and how sick it makes people.
Some COVID-19 variants seem to spread more easily and quickly, which means they could make more people sick. There is also early evidence that certain variants may also make people more sick. Experts are concerned that if a lot of people become sick at once, hospitals could become overcrowded and our health care system could be strained. That could potentially lead to more deaths. To prevent that from happening, you can take smart steps such as:
- Getting vaccinated as soon as possible
- Wearing masks in public indoor settings
- Practicing social distancing
- Washing your hands frequently
- Limiting the number of people at gatherings
- Following quarantine and isolation recommendations if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or you become sick.
Do I need to wear a mask?
El Paso County Public Health strongly recommends masks in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, in alignment with CDC guidance. CDC now recommends wearing masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, which includes El Paso County. Masks are required for unvaccinated people or those not fully vaccinated in specific settings outlined in Colorado Public Health Order 20-38, and for everyone within businesses, organizations, agencies or municipalities that request masks be worn. Masks are optional for those 11 or younger and for those who can’t medically tolerate it.
What you need to know
At this time, research trials show that the three COVID-19 vaccines — those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) — greatly reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus, regardless of the strain of COVID-19 a person is infected with.
It’s very important that eligible people receive vaccines and a booster as soon as they can. To learn more about vaccines click here. To learn more about vaccine boosters click here.
It’s also important to know that should a COVID-19 variant ever severely impact the effectiveness of our vaccines, scientists and health officials are confident that the vaccines can be quickly adjusted to effectively combat the mutated virus with specialized booster shots. In fact, that’s exactly what scientists do with the flu vaccine every year, adjusting it to effectively fight the mutated flu virus.