New COVID Strain Is Already Here, Experts Warn

The variant wreaking havoc across the sea is likely already in the US
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2020 4:30 AM CST

(Newser) – The COVID-19 variant causing "mayhem" in the UK "is already in the US," former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned Monday on CNBC. More than 40 countries have enacted bans on travel to and from the UK for some length of time, but at this point, Gottlieb doesn't think it would make much difference if the US followed suit. "We’re going to have an epidemic that continues to build over the course of the next three or four weeks, we’ll reach a peak, and then we’ll start to see infection rates decline as we see vaccinations get rolled out," he said of the mutated strain. Dr. Anthony Fauci made similar comments Monday, telling PBS, "You have to make that assumption" that the variant is already here.

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While it's said to be up to 50% more transmissible, there's so far no evidence the variant is any deadlier, nor that it would respond differently to vaccines. Both Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines against it, CNN reports. "As the virus continues to spread around the world, we’re going to start to see more of these variants, and that’s why it’s important to get the population vaccinated and snuff out these infections," Gottlieb said, noting that vaccines will most likely need to be adapted over time as the virus continues to evolve. Some political leaders have called on the Trump administration to halt travel from the UK, but USA Today reports US health officials say there is no reason to do so. New York has gotten an agreement from at least one airline to require passengers test negative for the virus before boarding a plane from the UK to the US. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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