BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to be cause for concern for health officials.
Multiple variants are here in Alabama. State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, said there at least 99 variant strain cases that have been identified in the state, and he said almost all of them are the United Kingdom variant, although he said a handful of the California variant have also been identified.
Health officials are keeping a close eye on this, especially as the mask order is scheduled to end next month.
There’s preliminary evidence that shows new variants of the COVID-19 virus are more contagious than the initial virus attaching more easily to human cells in the nose, lungs and other areas of the body.
“To the best of our knowledge, the current vaccine products do protect against those California variants, so again, we are doing our best to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible to make sure we stay ahead of any new infections…any new strains that may be spreading,” Dr. Harris said.
Scientists say the U.K. variant quickly became the dominant strain there, accounting for more than half of new cases.
Experts have noticed surges in cases in areas where new strains have appeared, but Dr. Harris said that hasn’t been the case here, so far.
However, he admits that may be because Alabama still has a mask mandate.
And while that health order ends April 9th, he advises people to continue taking precautionary measures.
“I think we’re doing what we need to do, which is right now, we’re still continuing to encourage people to wear masks, to stay out of groups, to stay home, if you can, and to get vaccinated and that’s really the most we can do, and so we’ll continue to emphasize those same things,” Dr. Harris explained.
Dr. Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health continues to monitor these variants, but he said he’s not necessarily worried about COVID-19 cases picking back up in Alabama, at least for now.
He also said that just because that mask order expires April 9th, that does not mean that there won’t be other health orders down the line.