More contagious virus variant is now dominant in US, CDC Chief says

A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections. Federal health officials said in January that the B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and has since slammed Europe, could become the dominant source of coronavirus infections in the United States, leading to a huge increase in cases and deaths. At that point, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at an all-time high. From that peak, the numbers declined until late February, according to a New York Times database. After several weeks at a plateau, new cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. The average number of new cases in the country has reached nearly 65,000 a day as of Tuesday, concentrated mostly in metro areas in Michigan as well as in the New York City region. That is an increase of 19% compared with the figure two weeks ago. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, who warned last week that she felt a recurring sense of “impending doom,” said Wednesday that 52 of the agency’s 64 jurisdictions — which include states, some major cities and territories — are now reporting cases of these so-called “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7. The number of deaths, however, continue to decline — potentially a sign that mass vaccinations are beginning to protect older Americans and other highly vulnerable populations. “These trends are pointing to two clear truths,” Walensky said. “One, the virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm’s way, and we need to remain vigilant. And two, we need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and to take the individual responsibility to get vaccinated when we can.” B.1.1.7, the first variant to come to widespread attention, is about 60% more contagious and 67% more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. The CDC has also been tracking the spread of other variants, such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.

More contagious virus variant is now dominant in US, CDC Chief says
A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections. Federal health officials said in January that the B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and has since slammed Europe, could become the dominant source of coronavirus infections in the United States, leading to a huge increase in cases and deaths. At that point, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at an all-time high. From that peak, the numbers declined until late February, according to a New York Times database. After several weeks at a plateau, new cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. The average number of new cases in the country has reached nearly 65,000 a day as of Tuesday, concentrated mostly in metro areas in Michigan as well as in the New York City region. That is an increase of 19% compared with the figure two weeks ago. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, who warned last week that she felt a recurring sense of “impending doom,” said Wednesday that 52 of the agency’s 64 jurisdictions — which include states, some major cities and territories — are now reporting cases of these so-called “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7. The number of deaths, however, continue to decline — potentially a sign that mass vaccinations are beginning to protect older Americans and other highly vulnerable populations. “These trends are pointing to two clear truths,” Walensky said. “One, the virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm’s way, and we need to remain vigilant. And two, we need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and to take the individual responsibility to get vaccinated when we can.” B.1.1.7, the first variant to come to widespread attention, is about 60% more contagious and 67% more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. The CDC has also been tracking the spread of other variants, such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.