Explained: The 3 Major COVID-19 Variants
As billions of people gear up for widespread vaccination against COVID-19, another issue has reared its head. Three major COVID-19 variants have emerged across the globe—and preliminary research suggests these variants may be cause for concern.
But what makes them different from the original strain?
The following visualizations answer some key questions, including when these variants were first discovered, how far they’ve spread worldwide, and most importantly, their potential impact on the population.
Some Context: What is a Variant?
Before diving in, it’s important to understand why viruses mutate in the first place.
To infect someone, a virus takes over a host cell and uses it to replicate itself. But nature isn’t perfect, and sometimes, mistakes are made during the replication process—those mistakes are called mutations.
A virus with one or more mutations is referred to as a variant. Most of the time, variants do not affect a virus’s physical structure, and in those instances, they eventually disappear. However, there are certain cases when a mutation impacts part of a virus’s genetic makeup that does change its behavior.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) a change in behavior can alter:
- Rate of transmission
- Ability to potentially infect someone with natural or vaccine-induced immunity
Preliminary research has detected some of these changes in the three major COVID-19 variants—B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1.
The 3 Major COVID-19 Variants
The three major variants emerged at different times, and in different parts of the world. Here’s an overview of each variant, when they were discovered, and how far they’ve spread so far.
The B.1.1.7 variant was detected in the UK in the fall of 2020. By December 2020, it had spread across the globe, with cases emerging across Europe, North America, and Asia.
Currently, the variant has been reported in roughly 94 countries.
Early research suggests it’s 50% more transmissible than other variants, and potentially 35% more deadly than the standard virus. Luckily, studies suggest that some of the existing vaccines work well against it.
In October 2020, the second major variant was discovered—B.1.351. It was first identified in South Africa, but by end of the year, it had spread to the UK, Switzerland, Australia, and Japan.
There are approximately 48 countries with reported cases, and research suggests several of the existing COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against this variant.
The P.1 variant was the last to arrive on the scene.
It was first discovered in January 2021, when Japan reported four cases of the variant, which was found in travelers who had arrived from Brazil.
Approximately 25 countries have reported cases of the P.1 variant, and early research suggests this variant is not only more contagious, but could also have the ability to infect people with natural immunity who had already recovered from the original strain.
Still Early Days
While there have been preliminary studies showing a dip in vaccine effectiveness, some experts emphasize that it’s too early to tell for certain. More data is needed to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding.
In the meantime, experts are emphasizing the importance of following our current public health strategies, which include physical distancing, vaccination, washing your hands, and using masks.
Visualizing The Most Widespread Blood Types in Every Country
There are 8 common blood groups but 36 human blood types in total. Here we map the most widespread blood types in every country in the world.
The Most Widespread Blood Types, by Country
Blood is essential to the human body’s functioning. It dispenses crucial nutrients throughout the body, exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, and carries our immune system’s “militia” of white blood cells and antibodies to stave off infections.
But not all blood is the same. The antigens in one’s blood determine their blood type classification: There are eight common blood type groups, and with different combinations of antigens and classifications, 36 human blood type groups in total.
Using data sourced from Wikipedia, we can map the most widespread blood types across the globe.
Overall Distribution of Blood Types
Of the 7.9 billion people living in the world, spread across 195 countries and 7 continents, the most common blood type is O+, with over 39% of the world’s population falling under this classification. The rarest, meanwhile, is AB-, with only 0.40% of the population having this particular blood type.
Breaking it down to the national level, these statistics begin to change. Since different genetic factors play a part in determining an individual’s blood type, every country and region tells a different story about its people.
Regional Distribution of Blood Types
Even though O+ remains the most common blood type here, blood type B is relatively common too. Nearly 20% of China’s population has this blood type, and it is also fairly common in India and other Central Asian countries.
Comparatively, in some West Asian countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, the population with blood type A+ outweighs any others.
The O blood type is the most common globally and is carried by nearly 70% of South Americans. It is also the most common blood type in Canada and the United States.
Here is a breakdown of the most common blood types in the U.S. by race:
O+ is a strong blood group classification among African countries. Countries like Ghana, Libya, Congo and Egypt, have more individuals with O- blood types than AB+.
The A blood group is common in Europe. Nearly 40% of Denmark, Norway, Austria, and Ukraine have this blood type.
O+ and A+ are dominant blood types in the Oceanic countries, with only Fiji having a substantial B+ blood type population.
More than 41% of the population displays the O+ blood group type, with Lebanon being the only country with a strong O- and A- blood type population.
Nearly half of people in Caribbean countries have the blood type O+, though Jamaica has B+ as the most common blood type group.
Here is the classification of the blood types by every region in the world:
Unity in Diversity
Even though ethnicity and genetics play a vital role in determining a person’s blood type, we can see many different blood types distributed worldwide.
Blood provides an ideal opportunity for the study of human variation without cultural prejudice. It can be easily classified for many different genetically inherited blood typing systems.
Our individuality is a factor that helps determine our life, choices, and personalities. But at the end of the day, commonalities like blood are what bring us together.
Pandemic Recovery: Have North American Downtowns Bounced Back?
All North American downtowns are facing a sluggish recovery, but some are still seeing more than 80% less foot traffic than pre-pandemic times
Pandemic Recovery: Have Downtowns Bounced Back?
As we continue on our journey towards recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, North American offices that sat empty for months have started to welcome back in-person workers.
This small step towards normalcy has sparked questions around the future of office life—will office culture eventually bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, or is remote work here to stay?
It’s impossible to predict the future, but one way to gauge the current state of office life is by looking at foot traffic across city centers in North America. This graphic measures just that, using data from Avison Young.
Change in Downtown Office Traffic
According to the data, which measures foot traffic in major office buildings in 23 different metropolitan hubs across North America, remains drastically below pre-pandemic levels.
Across all major cities included in the index, average weekday visitor volume has fallen by 73.7% since the early months of 2020. Here’s a look at each individual city’s change in foot traffic, from March 2, 2020 to Oct 11, 2021:
|City||Country||Change in Foot Traffic|
|San Francisco Peninsula||🇺🇸||-70.00%|
The Canadian city of Calgary is a somewhat unique case. On one hand, foot traffic has bounced back stronger than many other downtowns across North America. On the other hand, the city has one of the highest commercial vacancy rates in North America, and there are existential questions about what comes next for the city.
Interestingly, a number of cities with a high proportion of tech jobs, such as Austin, Boston, and San Francisco bounced back the strongest post-pandemic. Of course, there is one noteworthy exception to that rule.
A Tale of Two Cities
Silicon Valley has experienced one of the most significant drops in foot traffic, at -82.6%. Tech as an industry has seen one of the largest increases in remote work, as Bay Area workers look to escape high commuter traffic and high living expenses. A recent survey found that 53% of tech workers in the region said they are considering moving, with housing costs being the primary reason most respondents cited.
Meanwhile, in a very different part of North America, another city is experienced a sluggish rebound in foot traffic, but for very different reasons. Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is facing empty streets and struggling small businesses that rely on the droves of government workers that used to commute to downtown offices. Unlike Silicon Valley, where tech workers are taking advantage of flexible work options, many federal workers in Ottawa are still working from home without a clear plan on returning to the workplace.
It’s also worth noting that these two cities are home to a lot of single-occupant office buildings, which is a focus of this data set.
Some Businesses Remain Hopeful
Despite a slow return to office life, some employers are snapping up commercial office space in preparation for a potential mass return to the office.
Back in March 2021, Google announced it was planning to spend over $7 billion on U.S. office space and data centers. The tech giant held true to its promise—in September, Google purchased a Manhattan commercial building for $2.1 billion.
Other tech companies like Alphabet and Facebook have also been growing their office spaces throughout the pandemic. In August 2021, Amazon leased new office space in six major U.S. cities, and in September 2020, Facebook bought a 400,000 square foot complex in Bellevue, Washington.
Will More Employees Return or Stay Remote?
It’s important to note that we’re still in the midst of pandemic recovery, which means the jury’s still out on what our post-pandemic world will look like.
Will different cities and industries eventually recover in different ways, or are we approaching the realities of “new normal” foot traffic in North American city centers?
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