NYC cases of COVID variant known as ‘mu’ show steady decline: health officials

The vaccine-resistant mu COVID variant might not be as much a cause for concern as some have predicted, according to New York City health officials, who said Tuesday the strain appears to be less virulent than the now-predominant delta variant.

The mu version of COVID, which was first identified in January in Colombia, so far has been detected in 49 states, as well as in Washington D.C.

In recent days, some experts have voiced fears it could become increasingly problematic due to indications it’s more resistant to COVID antibodies than other variants, with the World Health Organization listing it as a “variant of interest” last week.

But city health officials suggested Tuesday some of those concerns may be premature.

Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

“There are some concerns about this being more resistant to the immune system, both in terms of vaccines as well as natural immunity than other variants,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. “With respect to what we’re seeing in New York City, the news is more positive.”

The prevalence of mu in positive test specimens taken in the city has steadily decreased, he said, noting that in early June, mu was identified in about 20% of specimens, but that most recent tests show it was found in fewer than 1% of cases.

“The delta variant is the variant that’s making up almost all of the cases in New York City,” Chokshi said.

He noted that the mu variant has not changed the city’s approach to COVID, which remains heavily focused on getting more New Yorkers vaccinated.

“What drives variants is transmissibility, not how harmful they are,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the city’s Health + Hospitals network. “Viruses are not actually trying to harm us. They’re just trying to replicate, and part of why delta is so dominant is not because of its harmfulness, but because of its wild contagiousness.

“The same is not showing to be true with mu,” he added. “It’s not turning into the dominant virus because it’s not as transmissible.”

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