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Fact Check: Instagram posts – COVID-19 did not stop mutating when Fauci stepped down from top role

Did COVID-19 stop mutating when former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stepped down from the position? No, but some folks on social media said it did.

“Anyone else find it odd we just stopped having new variants all the sudden?” read a screenshot posted on Instagram April 6. Its caption read, “Seems like all the variants dried up when Fraudci retired. Not weird at all.”

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Fauci stepped down at the end of December 2022 as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a role he held for 38 years), chief of the institute’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation, and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. 

He announced in August 2022 that while he was moving on from these positions, he was not retiring. He said he planned to “pursue the next phase of his career.”

Viruses constantly mutate, and some mutations result in new variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, “Some changes and mutations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. As the virus spreads, it may change and become harder to stop.”

The World Health Organization tracks currently circulating variants under monitoring, updated as of March 30. It listed XBB.1.16, a variant with its earliest documented samples recorded on Jan. 23, 2023. This variant has been detected in 27 countries as of April 6.

Meanwhile, a number of variants that were detected in 2022 have risen to become “variants under monitoring” — such as CH.1.1 and XBF — or “variants of interest” like XBB.1.5.

A variant under monitoring, according to the WHO, is a SARS-CoV-2 variant “with genetic changes that are suspected to affect virus characteristics and early signals of growth advantage relative to other circulating variants,” but is in need of more assessment in terms of impact. 

Variants of interest have genetic changes “that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics,” such as transmissibility, and have other indicators suggesting an emerging risk to global public health.

We rate the claim that there have been no new variants after Fauci stepped down from his positions False.

Source: PolitiFact.

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