In its gravest warning yet, the CDC cautions that the new highly contagious UK variant will become the dominant strain in the US by March.
Jay C. Butler, the CDC deputy director for infectious diseases, voiced the agency’s concern on Friday, saying,
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks. We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
This mutation could pick further momentum and spread rapidly in the nation, putting even more pressure on the health care system, which is already drifting under the growing number of hospitalizations and ICU cases.
This new UK variant, known as B.1.1.7., has been identified in 90 cases, across 20 states, according to the CDC reports. The speed with which this variant has already infected such a number presses on the urgency to have a majority of the population vaccinated within a certain time.
In every possible outcome explored by the CDC, the UK strain that is about 50% more contagious than the common coronavirus strains, will soon account for the most number of cases in the US within two months.
The agency backed up its forecast with modeling data that showed sudden spikes in the UK strain infections. This prediction leaves health care systems around the nation with much to grapple with and prepare for. The CDC wrote,
“Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained healthcare resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control. Taking measures to reduce transmission now can lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7 and allow critical time to increase vaccination coverage.”
The rapid emergence of other mutations such as the Brazilian and South African mutations goes to show just how the virus is evolving and branching out. This development in itself is a cause of concern since it points at the possibility of various other unidentified mutations out there. Regarding this, Greg Armstrong, head of the CDC’s strain surveillance program, cautioned,
“We’re going forward with the assumption that these three variants that we know about now are not going to be the only variants that emerge that are of concern to us.”
As always, the CDC yet again pressed for “universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking.”