Double-Up: New COVID-19 Variants Prompt Fresh Mask Warning

As more variants are identified, health experts are looking into how they respond to current COVID treatments and vaccines, concerned these mutations could accelerate the pandemic. NBC's Sarah Dallof reports.

(NBC News) — Minnesota has confirmed the first known U.S. case of a new strain of COVID-19 that’s been spreading in Brazil.

As more variants are identified, health experts are looking into how they respond to current COVID treatments and vaccines, concerned these mutations could accelerate the pandemic.

At least three have been identified including a more infectious, and possibly more dangerous, one that originated in the United Kingdom.

The Centers for Disease Control is warning it could become the dominant strain in the United States by March.

“The finding of a variant like this really increases the urgency for us to get collectively to get the pandemic under control,” says Dr. Charles Chiu of UCSF Health.

While virus mutations are not unusual, the more time it takes to vaccinate the population, the more potential one or more will accelerate a pandemic.

“Because it’s more contagious, it will spread to more people. And in so doing, just make more people sick. And it will find more people who are older, who have underlying illnesses, such as diabetes,” warns Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

That makes it more important than ever for Americans to do their part.

The Biden administration is pledging to get 100-million shots in arms in the first 100 days of his presidency, and health experts are advising mask upgrades, or doubling up.

“Wearing two masks helps improve the filtration ability of the mask in both directions and so it helps protect you better and it helps protect others,” explains Dr. Linsey Marre.

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