A highly contagious variant of Coronavirus, first discovered in the UK, has been found in 10 US states. Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it could become the dominant circulating variant in the US by March this year.
The CDC in the US has warned that a "rapid growth" of the Coronavirus variant, known as B.1.1.7, would be noticed in the coming weeks. The variant is believed to be twice as transmissible as the current version of the virus circulating in the US. However, as of now, healthcare experts found no evidence that the new variant could cause more severe illness.
The Burden on the Healthcare System
As of Saturday, January 16 the US has reported more than 23 million Coronavirus cases and nearly 400,000 deaths. While the healthcare system is already struggling with maximum numbers of COVID-19 patients, the rapid spread of the new variant is expected to increase the burden on the resources.
CDC said on Friday, January 15, during its weekly report on death and disease, the spread of the new variant will increase the need for better commitment to mitigation strategies, such as social distancing and mask-wearing. The rapid spread also increases the population percentage that needs to be vaccinated to get the protection against the virus, CDC said.
The UK variant has been diagnosed in only 76 US COVID-19 cases, but according to CDC scientists, it is likely that this variant is more widespread in the country than what is reported. "The modeled trajectory of this variant in the US exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March," added CDC in its report.
However, two other variants, detected in South Africa and Brazil, are also thought to be more contagious than the original one which is responsible for the Coronavirus pandemic. However, researchers are studying these variants to assess the threat they pose. Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) research suggested that B.1.1.7, now dominant in much of the UK, is between 30 and 50 percent more transmissible than the previous one. But there is no evidence to call this variant more deadly.
The CDC warning came at a time when President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a plan to ramp up the vaccination process in the US. His aim is to vaccinate 100 million Americans within his first 100 days of his administration, which is starting from January 20.
Biden said that his administration will take a more active role in terms of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. He has planned to set up new mass vaccination centers, hire more health workers and make sure that vaccines are available to every American, including the most affected minority communities.
On Friday, Biden said in a speech the country remains in a very 'dark winter'. He also admitted that the situation will get worse before "they get better". Biden's address came a day after he announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package which included a further $20 billion for the vaccine roll-out.
However, there are many people who still fear that the vaccines won't be effective against the new Coronavirus variants. But healthcare experts and researchers have played down the possibility that the current vaccines will be less effective.