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Influence of Luck

Experts braced for SARS-CoV-2 variant-fueled increases in COVID-19 cases in the US in the winter, but the New York Times writes that those waves largely did not arrive — but that that was mostly due to luck.

The first known case in the US of COVID-19 due to the B.1.1.7 variant — the variant first identified in the UK — was uncovered in late December, and other variants, originating from both outside the US and inside, were not far behind, the Times adds. At the time, the US was experiencing a surge in cases following the winter holidays and vaccination efforts had barely begun.

But a combination of factors such as mask-wearing and social distancing appears to have bought the US time to begin those vaccinations, the Times writes. At the same time, it notes that the B.1.1.7 variant — which now accounts for about three-quarters of COVID-19 cases in the US — is susceptible to vaccines.

"I think we got lucky, to be honest," Yale University's Nathan Grubaugh tells the Times. "We're being rescued by the vaccine."

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.