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No, the Coronavirus is Not Mutating to Get Around Masks and Hand-washing

Every time I read a news article headline reporting on some new scientific discovery I am reminded of this comic strip:

Comic Credit: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith

So it was no surprise when I saw this headline last week: Coronavirus mutation emerges that may outmaneuver mask-wearing and hand-washing

These kinds of idiotic headlines make me want to smash my head against a wall; because besides generating clicks and hence, ad revenue, for the online publication, all these kinds of headlines will do is encourage anti-mask groups: "Well scientists said the coronavirus is getting around masks these days so what's the point of wearing them?"

Let me explain the actual science behind the new study quoted by these articles:

  • SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus that most likely jumped from bats to humans through some intermediary.

  • As SARS-CoV-2 adapts to spreading amongst the human population (as opposed to bats), it, like any other virus, will begin to mutate.

  • The particular mutation in question is one that code for the spike proteins on the viral surface.

  • This spike protein mutation allows it to more easily infect and thus spread amongst humans.

  • You don't get infected by just inhaling a single viral particle for any virus, including SARS-CoV-2.

  • Before this mutation, it may have taken inhaling a couple thousand SARS-CoV-2 viral particles on average to infect someone.

  • With this new mutation, the number of viral particles someone needs to inhale for them to get infected will decrease.

  • Hence, statistically speaking, more people will get infected even with wide spread mask wearing and hand washing.

  • If anything, this mutation means MORE PEOPLE NEED TO WEAR MASKS MORE REGULARLY AS WELL AS WASH THEIR HANDS MORE OFTEN, or, the opposite of what's happening in Florida.

That pretty much sums it up. So, no, SARS-CoV-2 is not evolving to gain some kind of nefarious intelligence to fly around your mask to shoot straight for your lungs; nor is it evolving to somehow survive living inside soap bubbles.

Class dismissed; except for the journalists writing this drivel; please go back to journalism school.


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