NUTLEY, NJ (CBSNewYork) – Researchers at a laboratory in New Jersey are testing for the new UK strain of COVID already found in the US, and CBS2’s Jessica Layton has been given a rare look inside.
Research technicians like Kaelea Composto literally stare at a piece of pandemic every day.
“Just holding something that can exercise such power over people is still scary to me, at least,” she said.
She tested vial droplets under a microscope for the British variant of the coronavirus. CBS2 got a rare glimpse into work at the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation in Nutley.
“The point is that we find different positive swabs and try to identify different viral variants,” said research engineer Marcus Cunningham.
The technicians in the laboratory process up to 50 samples a day. These samples come directly from patients hospitalized with COVID.
There, scientists have cataloged dozens of different mutations, but this highly contagious variant, discovered in five states, including New York, is attracting more attention than most.
“It seems to have become dominant so quickly,” said lab director Jose Mediavilla.
Mediavilla explains that the mutation allows spike proteins to more easily attach to healthy cells, making them much more transmissible. But what does that really mean for us?
“Maybe before one or two people at the congregation get an infection … maybe three or four people now,” he said.
MORE: Mayor De Blasio calls for a ban on travelers from the UK to slow the spread of new, more contagious variants of COVID
It is so problematic that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on the federal government to ban travel from the UK to the US
“We literally invite this new terrible variant in the door,” said de Blasio on Tuesday.
The scientific director Dr. David Perlin says it’s only a matter of time before his team sees this in a sample.
“We assumed it was here,” he said.
CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1- (888) -364-3065 | to NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1- (800) -222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID at 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Right now, according to Composto, all of the testing, sequencing, and long hours in this lab boils down to, “Help us get where we can manage this virus and people won’t have to live with so much fear.”
A hope we can all leave behind.
Jessica Layton contributed to this report.
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