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Boston resident first in state with confirmed case of that more easily spread Covid-19 variant, although she's no longer in town

Story updated: Although the woman is from Boston, she was only here for a couple of hours before flying out.

A Boston woman who flew back to Boston from the United Kingdom on Jan. 3, then flew to another state, is the first Massachusetts resident to be diagnosed with the new strain of Covid-19 that spreads even more quickly than the ones we already had, state and city officials announced tonight.

The Boston Public Health Commission reports the woman in her 20s tested negative in the UK, flew to Logan to switch planes, spent a couple hours on a layover, then flew out again.

The state Department of Public Health reports it was notified last night of her test results from the state she's now in:

The individual was interviewed by contact tracers at the time the initial positive result was received, and close contacts were identified. She is being re-interviewed by public health officials now that the variant has been identified as the cause of illness.

To date, the variant has proven no more likely than older strains to sicken or kill people who catch it; the issue is that it spreads more rapidly than other strains. DPH says:

Given the increased transmissibility of this variant and the number of states and other countries that have found infected cases, the Department expected the variant to arrive in Massachusetts eventually. The public health risk reduction measures remain the same. Individuals must continue to wear masks or face coverings while out in public, maintain 6-foot social distancing, stay home when you are sick, and get tested if you have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.

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Comments

Who in the heck is traveling internationally now? Idiot.

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Wow.

Such a shame you seem to lack compassion (or any sense of restraint). Who knows what her circumstances are. She may have been trapped in the UK for work or family reasons, and just now able to come home.

It’s unfortunate she has the COVID+, but really, how low as a society need we stoop to shame her for her life-threatening health condition, especially when the barrier for travel between the UK and US is so restrictive right now.

I feel sorry for you.

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She tested negative before departing, so no she was not stuck there. UK is reconsidering its travel corridors for leisurely travelers from US like this.

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Fine.

Let’s accept your premise: she tested negative before boarding a flight from the UK to the US.

Why are you seemingly advocating for the OP’s desire for hate-shaming and named-callouts of a person now experiencing the Covid+ symptoms?

Have we, as a commonwealth, country, and society, lost all sense of compassion for those less fortunate than you or me? That feels unnecessarily mean. Why the hate?

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Why are you seemingly advocating for the OP’s desire for hate-shaming and named-callouts of a person now experiencing the Covid+ symptoms?

Why are you making up bullshit out of whole cloth? OP said nothing about either "hate-shaming" or "named-callouts".

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She tested negative before departing, so no she was not stuck there.

What does this even mean?

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This young woman lacked compassion for all the people she put at risk by traveling to England this January, in the midst of a massive outbreak of a new, more highly transmissible variant of COVID. My compassion for her should seem lacking in comparison with my compassion for all the people whose suffering and deaths may be on her hands.

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Voting closed 57

Every health official has been saying this would happen, just a matter of when. You might want to put away the torches and pitchforks.

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I suppose you throw bottles in the street too, because it's inevitable someone will? Is this the new morality? Do wrong, and hurt people, because someone else will, eventually?

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Are you of the mind that every one who has the SARS-Cov-2 virus made poor choices?

I just hope you weren’t judging people in the 1980s.

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People who are jetting around as if there were no pandemic are exercising bad judgement.

There are absolutely levels of bad judgement - voting for a sociopathic sadist who decided to ignore a pandemic and bullshit his followers into resisting control measures and causing it to explode is also bad judgement. Supporting a sociopathic and fasicistic regime that refused to implement basic policies to contain the pandemic is another. Not wearing a mask is another. Each has its risks and its body count.

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So, why was she flying from London to Boston, exactly? And what was she doing when she was exposed to this strain of the virus?

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It wasn't necessarily for leisure. Let's not jump to conclusions here.

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We don't and we won't. But, given the circumstances, leisurely travel is far more likely. (If there was a sick family member in UK, there would be no reason to come back, WFH and all.)

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leisurely travel is far more likely.

Is it? We don't know, there's no information provided as to why she traveled. She could have been returning home from a long time abroad. She could be a medical or pharmaceutical worker. She could have been on a diplomatic mission. She could be an airline employee. Jumping to conclusions with no info might make some people feel better about themselves, but it isn't helpful.

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So long as the planes are going, somebody has to staff them.

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Idiot is too good a word for this person! Asshole is more like it, imho!

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Can someone please explain what makes it more contagious. The CDC says 15 minutes of close exposure to someone who is contagious is the rule. Is this variant transmissible in shorter time?

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One is that the mutation changed the spikes on the surface of the virus somehow to make them easier to inject their RNA into cells, which means more cells turned into viral factories (but not enough of a change to the spike that the antibodies generated by the vaccines can't still recognize it).

The other is that something about the change makes the virus more quickly attack cells in the nose or upper respiratory tract, so more viruses are generated there and then expelled into the air around the person.

I'm no scientist, so somebody tell me why I'm wrong, but the two theories might be connected: If the spikes have become more effective, more viruses would inject their RNA in more cells higher up in the respiratory tract - and fewer viruses would get deeper down into the lungs, and so more viruses would be expelled through the nose or coughing or whatever to infect more people. This might also mean why people don't seem to be getting sicker from the new variant, since normally, the more viruses are created the sicker you get, because there are more of them to spread through the body.

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What makes it more transmissible isn't exactly known yet. But it has become more and more prevalent in areas where it is found, and people who have it are found to have given it to others. The more transmissible strain of any virus is always going to become the dominant strain unless it is rapidly contained. Is it possible that its not actually more transmissible, but rather somehow this strain ended up with people more likely to be spreading it to others for various reasons, maybe? But it appears to be spreading more readily than what we were dealing with before.

The reality is there could be "worse" strains resulting from mutations out there, but they didn't spread for whatever reason. Mutations are errors in genetic replication; you would make a few mistakes if you had to copy a book by hand a few million times.

Anyways, the CDC is watching, if you really want to know as the scientific knowledge changes, keep an eye on what they put out in the MMWR each week: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7003e2.htm?s_cid=mm7003e2_e

For now, if you've been following the public health guidance, keep doing it. We know it is effective and its the best we have until we learn more.

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Try the P1 from Manaus.

https://virological.org/t/genomic-characterisation-of-an-emergent-sars-c...

The E484K mutation occurs in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor and has been associated with escape from neutralizing antibodies

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/13756441/fears-new-mutant-covid-variant-co...

The E484K mutation has been shown to reduce antibody recognition, helping the virus to bypass immune protection provided by prior infection or vaccination.

Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant say the mutations it shares with the South African variant seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where previous attack rates are thought to be very high.

They say it is therefore essential to rapidly investigate whether there is an increased rate of re-infection in previously exposed individuals.

You read that right: the P1 variant of COVID stands out because of the possibility of reinfection. The antibodies developed by previous COVID variants don't work on the P1 strain, which means there is a possibility that the vaccines currently being rolled out won't work on it either.

This new strain developed in Manaus because Manaus is one of the hardest-hit places in the world, with approximately 76% infection of COVID. People speculated that Manaus was approaching herd immunity, but it didn't happen. Hospitals started filling up all over again, and the city is currently in the midst of a massive public health crisis. It appears that herd immunity to COVID is not possible.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6526/230

Once so many people have recovered from COVID and have antibodies to it that the current strain cannot spread, it will mutate to respond.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/01/new-coronavirus-variants-could-c...

TLDR: there is no post-COVID, folks. COVID is here to stay for the rest of our lives. We will all have to get vaccinated for it repeatedly, every year, forever.

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Maybe. Or maybe these vaccines will prevent transmission, or the next set we develop will, and we can contain it. Regardless, if we can effectively prevent illness, prevent death and suffering, then we have rendered it harmless. We will continue to research, develop and innovate and only time will tell what great results those efforts will bring.

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TLDR: there is no post-COVID, folks. COVID is here to stay for the rest of our lives. We will all have to get vaccinated for it repeatedly, every year, forever.

ugh thanks

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It doesn't have a mind. It doesn't "mutate to respond". It mutates because it makes millions/billions/trillions of copies of itself over a given period of time and it does it for speed, not accuracy. Most of the mistakes it makes are meaningless. Many don't even lead to making a viable virus. Some will be worse than its predecessor...where worse is a mixture of transmissibility, lethality, and immune system avoidance. Of course, of all those worse progeny that any one of us infected by the virus could be making, only a fraction of those will ever make it out of the body and into a new host. It's all about the odds.

If we reduce its odds, by reducing the number of viable hosts, then eventually it's chances run out. Look at New Zealand, which is basically virus-free for months now. Because everyone who comes into the country goes through an isolation period, they can prevent anyone with the virus (even asymptomatically) from transmitting it to someone in the country. Even if someone in country would get it, their contact tracing is very good and they isolate everyone involved. Enhanced transmissibility is useless if the virii don't infect another host in time.

Look at measles for an example. It has something like a 90% transmissibility rate (way better than COVID-19). However, it finds very few hosts due to good vaccination rates (on average). Even in places where it still infects thousands, their vaccination rates are up above 50% these days. We could live to see a day where it joins smallpox and rinderpest as an eradicated disease. Vaccination technology is advancing, faster than most virii in fact, and we will likely see a point in the near future where COVID-19 is like measles...and then eventually like smallpox.

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Thanks, Kaz.

One thing that has been missing, in my eyes, since the start of coverage or discussions of mutations of this virus is that mutations only matter if they continue past their original host.

Your body may have created the doomsday machine of mutations but you never left your house after becoming infectious and it ended either with your recovery or death.

So anyone making the flawed choice to be less careful than they could be, let's say because they are young and in great health and likely won't suffer serious symptoms of an infection, every one of those people is one more chance for this thing to become worse. You may be able to safely cross the street without looking, but do it every time you cross the street and your luck will run out eventually.

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The only virus we've ever eradicated is smallpox. We have never yet eradicated an RNA virus (COVID is an RNA virus). They evolve too fast - next year's RNA virus is not last year's RNA virus. Every strain of influenza (another RNA virus) evolves, infects, and disappears. The flu that caused the outbreak in 1918 doesn't exist anymore. The flu that caused the outbreak in 1957 doesn't exist anymore. Yet flu still exists. A flu vaccine for 1918's flu, or 1957's flu, would do us no good today, and vice versa.

The same will likely be true of COVID. It is not in the same class of virus (DNA virus) as smallpox, and also lacks many of the other key characteristics that made smallpox relatively easy to vanquish; if smallpox had asymptomatic carriers to the extent COVID does, and mutated at the speed COVID does, it'd probably still be around today.

It's nice to be New Zealand, with an ocean between you and everybody who is infected. I know a few people who moved there when the pandemic hit, clever folks. I am a little jealous. We are not in New Zealand.

We are nowhere near being able to control who comes into our country; we can't even provide health care to everybody we know is a citizen. We may be able to vaccinate sufficient of our population to provide herd immunity for the current version of COVID, but we will never get it all, and it will come roaring out of whatever pocket it survived in (in this country or another) with a version that doesn't respond to this vaccine's antibodies and start rampaging all over again until a newly tailored vaccine is developed, tested, released, and distributed. And again, ad infinitum.

If you seriously believe that this year's COVID vaccine is the last version you'll have to get, then one must wonder what else you believe in.

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Look up rinderpest. It's a single-stranded RNA virus. Gone. We did that. It's extremely related to measles. We'll eventually get rid of that too.

Influenza not only has a WIDE phylogenetic tree of brothers/sisters but also has VERY loose definition of its H and N glycoproteins (which accounts for the wide tree). This means not only can it drift a lot ("mutate" as you're talking about it), but it can also recombine with other influenzas within a single host to shift to a form we've not seen before (this usually leads to a pandemic like H1N1 in 2009). And even there, you can see that the similar H1N1 pandemic of 1918 ("Spanish flu") did more damage than the one in 2009 because we have better medication (primarily antibiotics to control secondary infections in hospitalized individuals), we have better isolation (hospitals, paid time off), and better widespread detection (PCR tests, the CDC) and better communication (the WHO, the internet). Each of these things is also only getting better with each epidemic we encounter. We also know how influenza adapts around vaccination and current research is in areas for avoiding the same vaccine creation methods to find ones that recognize less mutating aspects of the viral coat. We are also researching faster vaccination creation so we're not guessing as much at next year's likely major influenza set from its wide tree as to which to try to vaccinate because we could wait and see what's trending, make a vaccine immediately, and give that one out. There'd only be so much of that needed to again prevent lots of host transmission and thus cut off influenza eventually.

Additionally, you can't conflate a coronavirus with an influenza virus. They are different families for a reason, even though they're both RNA-based viruses. Coronavirii (all I think?) have proofreading proteins in their genome. That makes them much less likely to mutate by drift than influenza which reduces their odds yet again.

And, finally, while our borders are large, they're not impossible to protect if we're helping our neighbors rather than threatening them all the time. Our government response was abysmal compared to ones in the past. Our airports aren't different than New Zealand's. The pandemic didn't come here by swimming across the Rio Grande. We kept ebola out. We nearly kept all of the 2009 H1N1 virus out. If we'd studied the virus in China more in November and December 2019 instead of shutting down the research budget, then we would have had a chance to get ahead of it instead of being on our heels in March. This is why Eric Lander as head of OSTP is being elevated to a cabinet level position within the new administration.

Today's world is more mobile but information travels faster than people. But our government stuck its head up its ass instead of keeping its eyes open.

I never said the current vaccines would be our last. But we can definitely get ahead of coronaviruses, even this one. Is it possible we'll have one or two strains that can avoid the vaccine? Sure, but it's nothing like influenza in that regard. Could we have a new vaccine in months rather than a year? That's actually one of the interesting aspects of the BioNTech and Moderna methods...they're really easily extensible.

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About one thing.

I was focused on viruses that affect humans, and didn't consider rinderpest. The only human virus we've ever eradicated is smallpox.

The rest of your response is fairly silly. For example,

Our airports aren't different than New Zealand's.

No, they aren't that different (besides being around 150 of them instead of 6). The main thing that's different from New Zealand is about 7.5 thousand miles of land borders. Sure, the first people suffering from COVID flew in. But later more arrived on ships, and almost certainly by land. Because many more people enter this country by land than by air.

It's really funny (and not at all racist) to chuckle about people swimming the Rio Grande, but US-Mexico border was the world's busiest land border before the pandemic shut down non-essential travel, with almost a million people per day entering the United States.

This closure happened on April 20, 2020, which means that there were about 90 million border crossings from Mexico after the first COVID cases in America, or about 60 million crossings after the first cases were confirmed in Mexico.

Do you know how many people arrive in the US on a typical year by air? 122 million in 2019, less than half as many as cross by land from Mexico. Still funny? Still unlikely?

We may eventually eradicate COVID. But I don't believe it will be in your lifetime, or mine. For the foreseeable future, it will be new vaccinations for each variant of COVID. The reservoir of COVID virus in human populations is far-flung, and even just in our country we can't eradicate other, less contagious diseases because people refuse to be vaccinated.

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BioNTech's current vaccine is efficacious against the mutant strain that has everyone worried.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/covid-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-likely-to-...

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In many viruses, increased lethality and morbidity typically reduce the effective spread, and virus will either die out (SARS) or attenuate over time to be less damaging. So even a "worse" variant might do itself in by reducing host factors in transmission.

That's because very sick people do tend to not spread virus as effectively.

Variants that spread more readily will of course be selected for in this giant game of natural selection that humans have going on here.

Another reason for concern: the new variant from the UK may be more transmissible to and by children, who tend to be minimally symptomatic.

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Her name should be released. To shame her and to alert anyone who came in contact with this very stupid person.

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So no, we're not going to do that. The whole public health system goes out the window when we start violating medical privacy. People could stop seeking testing, stop cooperating with contact tracing (not that that has had perfect compliance), the whole system falls apart if we don't maintain confidentiality. As it says in the announcement from DPH, they have conducted contact tracing, the system is working.

I get it, I want to know who TF is traveling anywhere right now, especially internationally. Maybe it was essential business travel. Maybe it was for a death in the family. Maybe it was a bad decision to take a tourism trip to England right now. I'm not willing to destroy our public health system to shame someone.

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Thank you, Brian. 100% agree.

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and it's still not in good shape. The breakage of our health care system started with President Richard M. Nixon, began to worsen under President Ronald Reagan, and has gotten steadily worse. People who violate the rules of mask wearing, social distancing and traveling unnecessarily, especially overseas, deserve to be shamed. No sympathy for stupidity.

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That essentially puts a bounty on this person's head. There are too many whack jobs out there that would try to enact their own form of punishment. We don't know anything about why she traveled. The only people who might need to know her identity are the folks who came in contact with her and now need to be tested/quarantined. Public shaming for this would be dangerous.

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There are too many whack jobs out there that would try to enact their own form of punishment.

Yeah too bad these same whack jobs are the same ones parading around Target without masks on..

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these whack jobs who insist on not wearing masks, whether they're in Target or elsewhere, and who refuse to social distance, are the ones who are screwing everybody else over! It's disgusting.

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knuckledragger. Do you think you live in the Medieval times?

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Releasing the Covid+ person's name deters others from seeking testing, contact tracing, etc. Society is worse off because the government cannot accurately monitor Covid transmission.

Allowing ICE into courthouses deters undocumented immigrants from testifying, bringing forth criminal complaints, etc. Society is worse off because the government cannot properly or successfully prosecute criminals, so they go free and continue preying on undocumented folks/immigrant communities.

If you disagree with the 2nd practice (i.e. ICE in courthouses), then you have to disagree with the 1st. Period.

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I think she's an idiot, but I don't want to make things worse by siccing other idiots on her. There is no way in which that could be in the public interest. Contact tracing should be confidential.

It's like stopping to argue with someone for not wearing a mask. That is not how it works, not how it works at all.

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Man, could you be more judgemental? You have no idea what her circumstances are, yet you want to incite an angry mob onto her.

Give it a rest.

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This will have the aggregate effect of making public health measures less effective, not more.

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I hope that includes everyone that was on that flight as well? Time she passed through immigration etc.

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....if it makes people feel better the variant was almost assuredly already here and is going to be the dominant strain in MA within weeks regardless of what this woman did.

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the variant was almost assuredly already here and is going to be the dominant strain in MA within weeks because of what this woman (and others like her) did.

FTFY.

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Large-scale sequencing study strongly suggests the UK B117 variant has been present in the US (and Mass. in particular) since October.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/01/now-coronavirus-variant-us...

Add to this the study of Red Cross blood donations which found evidence suggesting the virus was here in Mass. as early as December of 2019:

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2020/12/02/covid-19-coronavirus-cdc-red-cros...

China is the only country that's succeeded (as far as we can tell) in controlling the virus by things like shutdowns and travel restrictions. It may be that an AI-powered totalitarian dictatorship with 1984 levels of surveillance is the only form of government capable of doing more than muddling through the way that the US and pretty much all of Europe seem to be doing.

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I wouldn't be surprised if this virus has been circulating for quite some time. Perhaps it just finally became transmissible enough in Wuhan that enough people got sick enough in one area for someone to realize something was up. Considering how many people do not show any symptoms, and yes, a vast majority will survive an infection, it may not have raised any red flags at first if it wasn't as readily transmissible earlier.

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are screwing everybody else over! It's totally not fair, and that's why Covid-19 is running so rampant and out of control right now.

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I don't want until Spring for my vaccine. There won't be any left by then.

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That the two companies keep making vaccine, right? It's not like they made some and then just stopped.

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There's also the J&J and AZ/Oxford candidates that are likely heading towards authorization in the very near future (https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-fauci/fauci-says-100-...).

There's also a Novavax candidate ready to start phase 3 (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/phase-3-trial-novavax-inve...)

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The vaccine mines have been depleted, and the starship is full. You are too late for either the vaccination or the evacuation.

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God, I sure hope it's Golgafrincham Ark Fleet Ship B...

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we had to take care of the essential people first. You know, the account executives and management consultants and public relations executives. And don't forget the telephone sanitizers! No wonder the Ark is full.

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They're giving it out first come, first served.

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/vaccine-tourism-people-are-flying-florid...

Ahh, Florida.

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A common trait of the counties that are part of Florida’s growing COVID-19 vaccination partnership with the Publix supermarket chain is that they are all safely Republican.

Ahh, Florida.

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After the state issued its press release that made it sound like she was in Boston, the city issued its own press release saying that she was only in Boston for a couple of hours, between getting off a plane from the UK and then getting on another plane to somewhere else.

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It certainly does raise questions about this individual's travel when they were not simply returning home from whatever travel they may have been doing, for whatever reason.

But I'm still not willing to sacrifice our public health system to satisfy the urge to crucify one person that may still have not been doing anything wrong. We don't know the circumstances, we likely will never know them.

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I wonder if she might be a flight attendant? I agree, however, that her identity should be kept confidential.

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Isn't only BA flying direct from London to Boston? A BA FA would have no reason to fly to another state after a layover in Boston.

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if they lived in another state. There are people who do, believe it or not.

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Boston resident.

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I was responding to the assertion that "A BA FA would have no reason to fly to another state after a layover in Boston." The implication is that no such FA would have any such reason, inclusive of non-Boston residents.

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Does British Airways have any crew based in the US? No US airline flies Boston to London direct.

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BA flights are often staffed by American Airlines flight attendants via the codeshare system. https://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/256069/british-airways...

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are doing something wrong, by insisting on traveling during a pandemic, which is part of the reason that the Covid-19 virus is running so rampant and out of control right now. The death rate here in the United States from Covid-19 right now is up over the 400, 000 mark, and we're screwed, thanks to these creeps who flout the rules for mask wearing, social distancing, and against large gatherings and traveling.

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The part where we are told why she was traveling. Maybe you can tell those of us who missed it why she flew from England to the US.

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What would we do without Tinder's Global Mode?

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