The British variant of the coronavirus is now the most dominant strain circulating in the United States, health officials said on Wednesday.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press briefing that the prevalence of “variants of concern” was increasing and the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, s ‘was imposed throughout the country. country.
“Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage in circulation in the United States,” Walensky said.
The spread of the UK variant, which scientists have deemed more contagious, adds to growing concerns that the country may be on the cusp of a new wave. The number of cases and hospitalizations are increasing, even as the United States vaccines an average of nearly 3 million people every day.
Walensky reported that some of the recent clusters of cases have been linked to daycares and youth sports, adding that the rise in infections appears to be due to young people.
“Hospitals are welcoming more and more younger adults – those in their 30s and 40s – admitted with serious illness,” she said.
The most recent seven-day average for hospital admissions in the United States, at around 5,000 per day, increased 2.7% from the previous week, Walensky said. Reported new infections are increasing in a similar fashion, with the most recent seven-day average standing at over 63,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, a 2.3% increase from the previous week.
Deaths, on the other hand, were down nearly 20% from the previous week, likely due to the vaccination of older populations, Walensky said.
In a report released in January, the CDC predicted that the British variant could become dominant in the United States by March. At the time, only 76 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant had been identified in 10 states, but the agency predicted “rapid growth” in the coming months.
It is not uncommon for a virus to mutate and evolve over time, and this is not the first time that a variant of the coronavirus has overtaken other strains during this pandemic. A mutation known as D614G, which was first identified in China in January 2020, quickly spread to Europe and New York before becoming the most common strain circulating around the world.
White House Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said on Wednesday that the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations underscored the importance of staying vigilant and getting vaccinated. According to the White House, 108 million people in the United States have received at least one vaccine, and vaccine eligibility is set to open to all adult Americans by April 19.
Although more research is needed, studies have suggested that currently available vaccines offer strong protection against the B.1.1.7 variant. There are fears, however, that if the virus continues to spread widely, other strains could emerge that escape vaccine-induced protection.
As such, Slavitt urged Americans to get vaccinated and support mitigation efforts such as social distancing and wearing a mask.
“Even though we are vaccinating Americans in record numbers, we’re still not halfway there and the progress we’ve made can be reversed if we let our guard down,” Slavitt said. “It is in our power to minimize death, disease and misery. If we all do our part, we can help save lives in April, May and June.”