CDC has not seen a extremely contagious U.S. variant of the coronavirus
Health care workers prepare to get vaccinations for Pfizer Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California on January 7, 2021.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
The White House coronavirus task force said there could be a new variant of the virus that has emerged in the United States and is driving the spread, according to a document from NBC News.
The strain variant is already spreading in communities in addition to the British variant and is possibly 50% more transferable according to the report published to states on January 3rd.
The CDC issued a statement saying that unlike variants in the UK and South Africa, no highly contagious new US variant of the coronavirus had emerged. However, it has been found that there are likely many variants around the world.
The task force said the recent spike in cases has been almost double what it saw in the spring and summer seasons, according to the report. The US has at least 228,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,760 virus-related deaths every day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using data from Johns Hopkins University. The US reported its deadliest day on Thursday with more than 4,000 deaths.
“This acceleration suggests that there may be a US variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and potentially 50% more transmissible,” the report said. “Aggressive attenuation must be used to match a more aggressive virus. Without a consistent implementation of effective facial masking (two or three layers and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could worsen quickly as these variants spread and prevail. “
“It is very likely that many variants will develop simultaneously around the world,” said Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, in an email to CNBC. He added that there is a “strong possibility” that there are variants in the US, but it could be weeks or months before officials identify a particular variant that “is fueling the surge in the United States similar to the surge in the UK “.
“Since the pandemic began, researchers have been monitoring US strains, including 5,700 samples taken in November and December,” he said. “So far, neither CDC researchers nor analysts have seen any particular variant emerge in the United States, as did the emergence of B.1.1.7 in the UK or B.1.351 in South Africa.”
Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services have not returned CNBC’s requests for comments.
Few details were given in the report about the new U.S. strain, including how long it had spread. In the past few weeks, the US has increased its genome sequences to detect other strains.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC on Friday that the new strain found by the White House task force appears to be behaving like the one circulating in the UK.
But he told Closing Bell that the new variety was not identical to the British variety B.1.1.7, adding, “If it did, we would recognize it because we are looking for it.”
UK tribe in several states
Public health officials were concerned about the new strain of the virus found in the UK. The CDC has identified at least 52 Covid 19 cases with the mutation B.1.1.7 in the United States. This emerges from data last published on the agency’s website on Thursday. However, the CDC warns that their numbers “do not represent the total number of B.1.1.7 ancestry cases circulating in the United States” and may not coincide with the numbers reported by local officials.
So far, the CDC only shows California, Florida, New York, Colorado and Georgia with cases of variant B.1.1.7, but other states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas announced the arrival of the tribe in their states on Thursday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday that the new strain from Britain could force the state into another economic stalemate if it spreads uncontrollably and weakens the state’s hospitals.
“It overtook everything in the UK in three weeks,” said Cuomo. “If the proliferation takes hold in the UK in New York, if the hospitalization rate is increasing, the hospital staff is sick, then we have a real problem and we are at a standstill again.”
Vaccines “now in arms”
In the task force’s report released over the weekend, officials urged states not to delay vaccinating people over 65 who are prone to serious illnesses.
“No vaccines should be in the freezer, they should be taken in your arms now. Active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives,” the task force said.
A new study by Pfizer found that the vaccine developed with BioNTech appeared to be effective against a key mutation in the British strain, as well as against a variant found in South Africa.
Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 Advisory Board, said Tuesday that more new variants of the virus would likely emerge in the US.
Osterholm, epidemiologist and The director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in an interview with CNBC that the strain discovered in the UK was “a very big problem”.
“And it’s the first of likely a number of these strains to emerge when we are at this point in the pandemic,” he added.