A King County health official said "we're living in the shadow of a COVID-19 volcano" as Washington state prepares for a more contagious variant to become widespread.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, leader of Public Health — Seattle & King County, likened a new strain of coronavirus to one of Washington's greatest natural disasters.
“We need to expect the coronavirus equivalent of a Mount St. Helen’s-like eruption at some time in the next few months,” Duchin said.
A year has now passed since the first U.S. case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Washington state.
During his weekly media briefing Friday, Duchin said a more contagious strain of coronavirus presents an even greater concern.
”This virus has been working out, it’s gotten faster, and more fit,” Duchin said.
He warns a new variant strain of the virus is likely to become widespread, making it harder to control.
Duchin said, because of the variant, it is even more important to wear masks, social distance and take precautions.
”I would be actually somewhat surprised if it's not already here,” said Dr. Wes Van Voorhis, a UW infectious diseases professor.
Van Voorhis said the variant strain in the UK is concerning because it’s easier to spread from person to person.
”The good news is, that if you're infected, you're not more likely to become sicker to end up in an ICU or something like that than the other strains,” Van Voorhis said.
On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made headlines after saying there’s early evidence that the UK variant may be more deadly, but experts say that remains largely uncertain.
Van Voorhis said evidence shows current vaccines are effective with the UK variant. It’s the variant strain found in South Africa that has health experts worried.
”It's also thought to be much more contagious, but it's also thought to get around the immunity people have from catching the virus before, and possibly also to our vaccine," said Van Voorhis.