California Governor Gavin Newsom announced at a press conference that the state is ready to fully reopen its economy by June 15 if vaccine and hospitalization numbers remain stable, but experts say the rise of the coronavirus variants could change the equations very fast.
California, one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic in the United States, reported over 3,583,830 coronavirus cases and 58,541 deaths in the past one year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state is set to surpass more than 20 million vaccine doses administered, including 4 million in the state’s hardest-hit communities.
Dr Prasun Mishra, founding president and CEO of the American Association for Precision Medicine (AAPM), and chair of AAPM coronavirus task force, sounded a note of caution.
“Historically, we have learned from flu vaccination campaigns that a new strain of flu emerges every year that can still potentially infect those that were previously vaccinated,” Dr Mishra told indica News.
“The same thing can be potentially true for Covid-19. Due to the emergence of these novel SARS-CoV-2 variants the next wave of Covid-19 can be much worse. We have to be cautious and prepared to handle the ongoing and upcoming challenges.”
“As we have already seen the resurgence of Covid-19 variants in Michigan and Florida due to loosened coronavirus restrictions, we have to be extra cautious as we reopen the economy,” he said.
“As Newsom said, we will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here. Hence, as we plan to reopen, we have to continue wearing masks and take common-sense measures to contain the spared of Covid-19 and its variants.”
Asked about the double mutant “Indian variant” recently found here, Dr Mishra said: “I am very much concerned because the Indian variant carries variation in a domain used by SARS-CoV-2 to enter human cells.”
“Although it is not yet known if this double mutant India variant is more infectious or more resistant, it carries an L452R mutation in the California variant, along with a mutation, E484Q in spike protein (the same position is also muted to amino acid Lysine-K in both the South Africa and Brazil variants). And the California variant is known to be potentially more resistant to antibody and vaccine, which hints that the double mutant, which contains the California variant, might be more resistant. However, this is just speculation and needs to be validated in the clinic.”
A spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Health Department told indica News last on April 6 that it was “too early to tell” if a double mutant variant found recently “is more infectious or resistant to vaccine antibodies”.
“The county is focused on vaccinating our residents as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.
“We hope that vaccine supplies will quickly improve, and that case rates and positivity rates will continue to decline. As we await additional vaccination supplies and monitor the growing number of variants… we urge everyone to stay diligent about wearing face coverings and following all other guidance from public health officials.”