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New US Variant May Be Behind Surge

White House task force warns strain could be 50% more transmissible
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2021 4:20 PM CST
New US Variant May Be Behind Surge
An EMT disinfects a gurney after transporting a patient Thursday at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – The UK variant of the coronavirus may not be the only new strain to be concerned about. The White House coronavirus task force has told states that the US might have its own new strain that's 50% more transmissible. That would partly explain the current surge in cases, the task force said; the rate of new infections is almost twice what it was last spring and summer, CNBC reports. "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," the report said. "Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus."

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The CDC has reported at least 52 instances of the UK variant in the US. "I would be surprised if that doesn’t grow pretty rapidly," the director of the National Institutes of Health said, per the Washington Post. A CDC official said, "We're definitely taking this seriously, and we’re assuming for now that this variant is more transmissible." Health experts still expect the existing vaccines to work against all the newly discovered variants. But the CDC report to the states warned that "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." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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