The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that a highly transmissible coronavirus variant circulating in the United Kingdom will become the dominant strain in the United States by March.
“Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained health care resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control,” CDC researchers said.
According to Washington Examiner, The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first discovered in Kent, England, in September has infected at least 76 people in at least 10 states as of Wednesday and threatens to create a new wave of coronavirus infections in the U.S. and abroad. Infectious disease experts advising the British government believe the new variant is between 50% and 74% more contagious than other strains. Scientists have yet to conclude that the mutation leads to more severe COVID-19 infection, but the high rate of transmissibility could place an even greater strain on hospital systems creaking under the weight of the pandemic.
“Currently, there is no known difference in clinical outcomes associated with the described SARS-CoV-2 variants; however, a higher rate of transmission will lead to more cases, increasing the number of persons overall who need clinical care … and resulting in more deaths,” the CDC said.
Stepping up social distancing efforts would buy the U.S. the necessary time to boost lagging vaccination rates, the best possible chance at preventing steep transmission increases, the agency said. Scientists maintain that vaccines currently in distribution across the U.S. will offer people the same protection against this new strain as they do the current dominant strain. Still, the federal government will have to ramp up production and boost the very limited supply of available doses.
To date, nearly 23.4 million infections and more than 389,500 deaths due to COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., though current case totals are undercounted, given that many infections go undetected and undiagnosed.