Newer, More Infectious Strain of Coronavirus Has Taken Over the World

This is a little down in the weeds, but you might not have heard about it before. A new mutation of the coronavirus appeared in Europe back in February and has quickly become the dominant strain nearly everywhere in the world. Here are the official—but incomprehensible—pretty charts from the paper describing the new strain:

Wait. Weekly running count of what? And why are the counts decreasing? And if they’re weekly, why are the bars daily?

I have hunted through the paper for an explanation but basically come up dry. As near as I can tell, the answers are:

  • It’s a running count of the samples submitted to GISAID, the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.
  • They have lots of submissions from mid-March but not yet very many from April.
  • The bars are daily because . . . um, I don’t know. But if you add up the bars that fall on a weekly date, you’ll get about the same number as the cumulative chart in the supplementary materials. So those are really the only bars that matter.

What this adds up to is simple: the absolute numbers don’t really mean anything. For our purposes, the most useful chart is a weekly presentation of the percentage of the G614 strain. So here that is:

As I’ve said before, projections of COVID-19 deaths mainly depend on estimates of how good each country’s (or state’s) countermeasures are and how many people comply with them. But mutations of the coronavirus matter too. This one isn’t hugely more dangerous than the original strain, but it’s a little more deadly.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate