Highly-transmissible COVID-19 variants have likely been circulating undetected for months in places like the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. They then seemed to burst onto the scene, fueling large outbreaks that dwarfed preceding ones.
While the variants aren’t well understood, they suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating in ways that confer an evolutionary advantage. They thus threaten to become dominant throughout much of the world in coming months unless protocols such as growing vaccination, mask-wearing and social distancing can slow their spread.
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