By Bill Shields

BOSTON (CBS) – The more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Massachusetts. What makes it so much more contagious than the COVID we have been fighting for almost a year? We do.

“It may infect more cells in someone’s nose or in someone’s mouth, and because it’s infecting more cells, more virus is produced,” said Dr. Richard Ellison of UMass Memorial Medical Center.

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People spread COVID-19, and with the variant, they can become very efficiently contagious.

“Epidemiologically, we see a higher attack rate, a higher reproductive capacity,” said Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center. “If you’re exposed to somebody with the variant, as compared to somebody without, you’re more likely to get infected.”

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So the new strain begs the question: do masks protect us? The answer is yes and they are more important than ever. “I think we have to up our game in all areas,” said Dr. Ellison. “We have to go back and be very cautious about this.”

He adds that the cloth masks are not nearly as effective as surgical masks or N95 masks.

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Dr. Doron said we are all feeling some level of “COVID fatigue”, but now is not the time to be getting lazy. “We could see steeply rising case numbers, as we’ve seen in the past. Or worse,” Dr. Doron said.

Bill Shields