White House coronavirus task force warns of possible "USA variant" fueling spread

Saturday, 2021-01-09 11:11:50
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A restaurant provides more outdoor seats in New Orleans, Louisiana, the United States, Jan. 8, 2021. US city of New Orleans on Friday tightened its COVID-19 restrictions as the situation of the pandemic continued to worsen in the past days. (Photo: Xinhua)
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There would be a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus that evolved in the United States and is fueling spread of the virus, according to the White House coronavirus task force.

The new strain, in addition to the variant found in Britain, is already spreading in communities and may be 50 percent more transmissible, according to a report obtained by US media that the task force issued to states on Jan. 3.

The task force said the recent spike in cases has been at nearly twice the rate seen in the spring and summer seasons, according to the report.

"This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50 percent more transmissible," said the report, calling for aggressive mitigation to match a much more aggressive virus.

"Without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as these variants spread and become predominant," said the report.

Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC on Friday that the new strain the White House task force has found appears to be behaving like the one circulating in the United Kingdom.

The latest development came as the country has identified a total of 52 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in Britain, according to data updated Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This includes 26 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, two cases in Colorado, and one case each in Georgia and New York.

The agency cautions that its numbers, which are updated Tuesdays and Thursdays, may not immediately match those reported by states and local officials.

The variant first identified in Britain seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, according to the CDC.

As the country struggles to speed up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the report said that vaccines must "be put in arms now."

"Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease; recommend creation of high throughput vaccination sites with use of EMT personnel to monitor for potential anaphylaxis and fully utilize nursing students. No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now; active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives," said the report.

The United States has recorded over 21.8 million cases with over 367,900 related deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to the real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.