What the New COVID-19 Variants Mean and How to Report on Them

Image courtesy of GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance

There is widespread concern that some new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, appear to be more infectious than previous strains of the virus. If the variants spread much more easily, that means more people may become infected and there is the potential that more will be hospitalized. Once hospitals become overwhelmed, the quality of care may drop, which can lead to higher death rates than would otherwise be expected.

This basic guidance helps journalists understand how and why viruses mutate, what genome sequencing is, what makes new variants more transmissible, and helps to make sense of new SARS-CoV2 variants. As the the virus that causes COVID-19 changes, it is never too late to digest this foundational information.