The British variant now accounts for 10 percent of COVID cases in the US

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The highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus now accounts for about 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. – and could be the overwhelming burden by March, federal officials said Friday.

This figure of around 10 percent has increased “from 1 to 4 percent a few weeks ago” and “prevalence” [of the strain] is even higher in certain regions of the country, ”said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a virtual COVID-19 briefing at the White House.

CDC data shows that 2,102 cases of British variant B.1.1.7 were reported in 45 US states.

The British variant is believed to be up to 50 percent more transmissible than other strains that are far less common in the US to date.

The other strains are the South African variant known as B.1.351, the Brazilian variant known as P.1, and variants such as the one that originated in New York City called B.1.256, and another in California called B..1.427 .

“We can now see the first effects of these variations in the latest data,” Wallensky said, referring to what officials described as worrying numbers.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says that
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says “cases have increased in the past three days compared to the previous week” regarding the spread of the UK COVID-19 strain.
AP Photo / Susan Walsh

COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions in the US had declined since January, and deaths fell in the past week, Wallensky noted – “However, the latest data suggests these declines may stall and possibly worsen at one very high number. ”

“We at CDC think this is a very worrying shift in trajectory,” she said, adding that the most recent 7-day mean of new cases, about 66,350, is “higher” than it was on Wednesday.

“In fact, cases have increased in the last three days compared to the previous week, and while deaths tend to fluctuate more than cases … the most recent seven day average is slightly higher than the seven day average earlier in at around 2,000 per day of the week, ”said Wallensky.

An employee returns a COVID-19 test sample to a building in Echo Park Stadium, Colorado on December 30, 2020.
An employee returns a COVID-19 test sample to a building in Echo Park Stadium, Colorado on December 30, 2020.
Getty Images

Wallensky said the CDC is “watching this data very closely,” adding that “now is not the time to relax restrictions.

“Although we’ve seen sharp drops in cases and admissions over the past six weeks, those drops follow the highest peak we’ve seen in the pandemic,” Wallensky said. “Cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain very high and the recent postponement of the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously.”

Wallensky referred to the new research released this week on the emerging variants in New York and California. “These also seem to spread more easily and contribute to a large part of the current infections in these areas, which makes the situation even more urgent.

“We may be through with the virus, but the virus clearly isn’t through with us. We can’t take it easy or give in to a false sense of security that the worst pandemic is behind us, ”Wallensky said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the best measure to counter emerging strains of COVID-19 is to “create a version of the [coronavirus] Vaccine that actually deals with each variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the best measure to counter emerging strains of COVID-19 is to “create a version of the [coronavirus] Vaccine that actually deals with each variant. ”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

During the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, notes that the UK variant “could be the overwhelming burden” by the end of March and that new versions of the current COVID-19 vaccines may be required to combat the variants.

“We have to deal with it [variants]”Fauci said, noting that” one of the ways to do this is to create a version of the [coronavirus] Vaccine that actually deals with each variant. “

He explained how drug maker Moderna has begun clinical trials with a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine for the South African variant, which the CDC has found in 49 patients in the United States.

The South African tribe, said Fauci, “is not at all dominant here in the US, but we have to be careful.”

A phase 1 study of Moderna’s vaccine booster will be conducted “out of caution” in mid-March, Fauci said.

Fauci urged Americans to further double the fight against the coronavirus by adhering to public health measures.

“Viruses don’t mutate unless you allow them to spread and replicate,” he said, adding that “public health action is of the utmost importance.”

Fauci also urged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

“It’s important that as many people get vaccinated as quickly and as quickly as possible,” said Fauci.

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