A potentially dangerous new form of the coronavirus, or “lineage,” as geneticists call it, is spreading across New York City, scientists reported this week. They worry the new lineage, B.1.526, could be more transmissible and partially resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines.
In the worst-case scenario, B.1.526 could arrest recent progress reducing new infections and hospitalizations and delay, by weeks or months, the eventual suppression of the pathogen in the state where it exploded last spring. But if there’s a silver lining in B.1.526’s dark cloud, it’s that it shares its worst qualities with several other coronavirus lineages. And many of the countries where those new lineages are now dominant have figured out how to beat them.