PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As COVID-19 numbers go down and the number of vaccinated goes up, many may be hopeful for the future. Doctors with the Mayo Clinic warned Wednesday; however, we could see a third surge of cases.

"We are looking at variant viruses that, in fact, combined aspects of increased lethality and increased transmissibility, almost certainly will drive a new and likely worse surge, depending upon how successful we are in this race," said Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. He said we must vaccinate quickly and wear masks.

"Between people who have gotten infected and the ability to deliver large amounts of vaccine, we may, in fact, be able to prevent the worst of that, as well as continuing with non-pharmaceutical interventions," said Poland.

"The tests that we have are really designed to detect whether or not you have the virus," said Dr. William Morice II, President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. "...they don't just say whether or not you have a particular strain."

Lab workers sequence a whole viral genome to find out what strain a person has. Arizona's largest COVID-19 testing site, Embry Women's Health, said that's expensive.

"I would love Arizona to be genetically sequencing every positive patient's result and be looking closely at that," said CEO Raymond Embry. "Unfortunately, there's no funding going toward that process."

To date, The Arizona Department of Health said it has identified five samples of the so-called U.K. COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. ADHS said it started sequencing beginning in late November and has performed sequencing on more than 500 samples, working with the Utah Public Health Laboratory for analysis.

ADHS also sends positive samples to the CDC, and it's worked with the Arizona Genomics Union for whole genome sequencing since the beginning of the pandemic. TGen North sequenced more than 5,000 specimens, and ADHS is expanding partnerships with other laboratories to perform sequencing.


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