Massachusetts COVID-19 Committee plans hearing on virus variants

Coronavirus Local Impact

Illustration of changing genetic structure to new strain. (Getty Images)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Having already held two oversight hearings to question Baker administration officials about the state’s vaccine rollout, the COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management Committee is now planning to hold an informational hearing about COVID-19 variants.

The hearing will be held jointly with the Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday, April 13, at 10 a.m., the committees announced late Tuesday. Testimony will be by invitation only. So far, two medical professionals have agreed to discuss the rise and spread of mutated forms of the coronavirus: Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, who is an infectious disease physician and the medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston Medical Center, and Dr. William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology and a faculty member in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control counts 82 cases of the P.1 COVID-19 variant, which is thought to be more contagious and able to reinfect those who have already defeated the coronavirus, in Massachusetts — more than any other state in the country aside from Florida, which has identified 84 cases of the variant.

On Wednesday, the head of the CDC said that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, initially detected in the UK and first identified in the U.S. in December 2020, is now the most common lineage of the coronavirus in the United States. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re working as fast as we can to get shots into the arms of everyone who wants to get vaccinated,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday of the spread of concerning variants.

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