Watch CBS News

UK COVID-19 Variant Threatens To Spread Through Younger Population

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some of Chicago's top doctors says part of the blame for the city's rise in COVID-19 cases is the United Kingdom variant. It is showing major spread at a time when more and more people are getting vaccinated. But it's those who cannot get vaccinated -- kids -- who may now be most at risk.

That concern has grown in the last 48 hours. With time, more and more is being learned about the virus, and this variant specifically has changed the game. Doctors from the White House to Chicago say the assumption that kids will avoid the worst of the virus is no longer as true as it was.

"We are just seeing tons and tons of the B117 variant," said Dr. Emily Landon of University of Chicago Medicine.

Landon is warning those starting to let their guard down in the pandemic: The UK variant is looking for any opening it gets, and it doesn't take much to spread.

"On average you're breathing out almost twice as much COVID as you were before, and it takes half as much for you to get sick," she said.

It has been in Chicago for some time, but it is now showing up in a concerning population. Adults may be getting vaccinated, but kids are not. And with this variant, doctors say they are more at risk. 

"Younger people who have considered themselves to be largely protected from the bad outcomes of COVID are not as protected when it comes to B117," Langdon said.

Monday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discussed the rise at its COVID briefing. 

"We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities. According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited," said Dr. Rochelle Wallensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Landon said that is happening in Chicago. 

"People can get closer together," she said. "Masks don't stay on very well or protect as well when you're running around and doing more activity."

She said it is up to parents and guardians to recalibrate their thinking. 

"The kids probably won't get that sick. That's probably correct, but it's less correct than it was a few months ago," she said.

And so, doctor's say your guard should stay up. No matter your age.  

"I think the best thing to do is protect your kids the same way you would have protected yourself at the beginning of the pandemic," Landon said.

It's important to note, the CDC and Dr. Landon said in person classes are a more controlled environment, so they're not seeing this increase in cases in children stemming from schools at all. 

But after their activities, its the standing around waiting for a ride, hopping in the carpool and all the other small interactions that have them very concerned.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.