It’s been approximately a month after the new COVID-19 strain also known as the UK variant has been identified in the United States. According to health officials, the strain is between 50 percent and 74 percent more transmissible and 30 percent more deadly than the original coronavirus that started the pandemic almost one year ago.
As of Jan. 20, the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus has been discovered in 20 U.S. states, the CDC warned, and two states, in particular, have become the biggest hotspots for the new COVID-19 variant. Read on to find out what states are on the CDC’s radar the most.
There have been 46 cases of the U.K. strain reported in the Sunshine State, so far. Florida was one of the states with the largest number of COVID-19 cases last summer and is now one of the two states in the country with the highest number of patients infected with the new U.K. strain. The first case was identified on Dec. 31 and since then 45 other people have reportedly been infected.
“This new strain is more contagious, and that means more people will get infected,” says Frederick Southwick, MD, a professor of medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Florida. “If we had a problem, we’re going to have more of a problem now.”
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According to Covid Act Now, California is going through the worst COVID outbreak in the United States. To make matters worse, it also reported the second largest number of cases of the new U.K. variant, with the first one being reported on Dec. 30.
“The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized,” warns Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, Director of Public Health in Los Angeles. According to Ferrer, the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the standard coronavirus has been five-time greater this winter than last summer. With the emergence of this new strain, the risk for the infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in people’s homes is far greater.
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What happens next?
According to authorities, given its rate of transmission, it is very likely that the U.K. strain will become the dominant strain in the United States in a month or so. The current numbers might not seem so alarming, but, as explained by former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, the new variant totals about 0.5 – 1 percent of all infections across the country but “it’s going to double every week”. Therefore, 1 percent now will turn into 2 percent next week, 4 percent the week after that, and so on. In approximately five weeks, it will become the main strain.
In light of the dramatic turn of events and the handful of new strains that have been identified in the UK but also in South Africa and Brazil, researchers are trying to determine what the new data means for the vaccines already developed and used all over the world.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the current Covid-19 vaccines appear to be effective against the UK strain. However, “we’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci added.
Speaking of the vaccine, here are 7 COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Dr. Fauci Wants You to Understand.