By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – Researchers in Massachusetts are checking COVID-19 test results for the variant emerging in other states. “I think most of us are working on the assumption that it’s here,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

It has people asking questions. “I mean is it going to lead to something that’s different than we’ve already seen,” asked Lisa Sletten from Georgetown. “Or something that’s worse?”

We put the questions to Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We’re really not seeing any difference in the range of symptoms that are caused by different strains of COVID-19,” he said.

“I’d be curious to know how likely it is that we’ll see continued evolution of this virus,” asked Jim Bradley from Charlestown.

“Viruses tend to mutate over time,” said Dr. Kuritzkes. “There are limits to how many mutations a virus can accumulate though…so I don’t think people have to worry that this is going to transform itself into some completely different type of virus.”

“Are you confident that the vaccine can cover these new variants,” asked Sheila Geoghegan from Boston.

The Cambridge-based Moderna put out a statement saying it’s still testing, but “expects that the vaccine-induced immunity from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine would be protective against the variants…”

“There’s every reason to think that the vaccine’s going to be broadly effective even against these new variants,” said Dr. Kuritzkes.

Governor Baker has said there’s one important difference with the variant, that it’s more contagious. That has Baker repeating public pleas to wear masks and stay socially distanced.

Christina Hager