Latest on COVID-19 pandemic with Dr. Abha

Posted at 8:02 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 08:02:31-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Each week we have spent time talking with local experts about the latest on COVID-19 around the world and especially here in Michigan.

Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Abha Gupta Varma joined us once again to discuss the latest on the UK Variant and travel restrictions. Dr. Abha also talked about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which could receive FDA approval soon.

We also talked with her about double-masking and making sure you keep your health in check throughout the pandemic.

The UK Variant

1. A variant that first surfaced in the UK in September of 2020 known as B 1.1.7. is here in the US in over half of the states; Sunday, Feb 7, we were alerted to its presence in Kent County.

2. This UK variant is different from the original virus in that a) it is more easily passed on/transmissible making the virus b) more infectious. C) we do not know that the variant is more deadly d) presently, we have no reason to believe that current vaccines are incapable of dealing with the UK variant

3. The variant’s heightened transmissibility means that asymptomatic carriage is all the more concerning – the period during which the host doesn’t know they harbor the virus and could thus pass it on to many more people.

4. Just as we have seen a flattening of the curve – which means a relief on the health care system and hospitalizations and deaths, we could see a reversal of these numbers. This makes reenforcing the rules that much more real – do not let the guard down. MASK. Avoid crowds. Furthermore: if the numbers start to rise, we will undergo setbacks that will further dishearten people and the economy – closures of bars, businesses, and schools.

The J&J vaccine

1. Requires one dose at this point. The study involved 45,000 volunteers across ages and races.

2. Can be kept in the refrigerator / does not require ultracold freezers. This has major implications for communities where getting ultracold freezers is not feasible.

3. Trial is completed here in the US and they have appealed to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization – EUA which could be granted in a couple of weeks.

4. It is 85% effective at preventing serious disease. No deaths were seen. No allergic reactions like anaphylaxis were observed. It is 72% effective overall in the US. No hospitalizations. No deaths were seen.

Double Masking

1. There are new guidelines out by the CDC suggesting 2 masks may be better than one. A well fitted surgical mask with a cloth overlay.

2. Ensure that the surgical mask is double layered and fits snugly under the chin, over the nose and against the face without gaps. Looping the straps around the ears and knotting it may be helpful. Such techniques are 96.5% effective at preventing transmission.


1. Do not go it alone. Talk to your doctor. It you do not have a doctor, you can get in touch with anyone at the leading health facilities in West Michigan to get a new doctor or talk to a telehealth provider.

2. Do not avoid the ER. A decrement in visits to the ED for chest pain and stroke were seen throughout the height of COVID, leaving open the concern that people are avoiding health care professionals and possibly suffering non covid related death or injury due to fears of going to the ED

3. Do NOT let your guard down once you are vaccinated and have achieved acquired immunity. So long as the virus mutates and develops new variants, the concern is like that for the FLU, new viruses that can evade the body’s immune system.

4. COVID can masquerade as anything – If you do not have fever, cough or shortness of breath, that does NOT mean you cannot have the virus. The virus has been revealed as clotting and strokes in younger individuals, an inflammatory condition with rashes and fevers first described in children with a similar presentation in adults.

5. Do not rely on what you are reading alone – please ask your trusted physicians for clarification. The websites where you can get important information Kent County Health Dept: Centers for Disease Control: World Health Organization:

6. Quarantine and isolation are small asks. ISOLATION: if you are infected, stay in place and do not commune with others including family members or wear a mask and wash hands frequently if you cannot remain in your own room. QUARANTINE:refers to the separation and restriction of well patients who have been around infected persons and awaiting possible development of symptoms.

The current recommendation remains at 10 days in isolation from other from the start of symptoms and 24 hours fever free without the use of fever reducers. 10 days from the positive test if you have no symptoms but test positive. 14 days from the last contact with someone who has tested positive as this is the period of time wherein one can become symptomatic or become Covid positive. This is coming from FAQs These guidelines must be tailored to each individual’s own medical history and circumstance.

Good News

1. We have excellent vaccines already authorized for use in the US with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines demonstrating 94% or greater efficacy against the original virus. We have no reason at present to believe that these 2 available vaccines will not work against the UK variant

2. We do not yet have the S. African or Brazilian variants here in Michigan which means protective efforts, limitation on travel and exposure must be reenforced.

3. We have a collaborative and coordinated effort for vaccination in West Michigan we can be proud of. Please go to : to find a vaccine if you are 65 and older, a health care provider, an essential worker on the front lines and in the Phase 1a and 1b list. PowerPoint Presentation (

Scroll down to the Interim Vaccination Schedule – the colorful graph of Phases 1a-c and 2 and who is included. Please consider getting up some data from the website during the am Q&A and include links people can go to for important questions and answers.