More contagious coronavirus variant identified in UK is spreading rapidly throughout the US, study says

A new study finds that cases of a more contagious coronavirus variant are rapidly increasing in the United States, and significant community transmission may...

Posted: Feb 7, 2021 12:05 PM
Updated: Feb 7, 2021 2:15 PM

A new study finds that cases of a more contagious coronavirus variant are rapidly increasing in the United States, and significant community transmission may already be occurring.

Although the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK is currently at a relatively low frequency in the United States, the paper says it's doubling every week and a half, similar to what was observed in other countries. The report estimates this variant is 35-45% more transmissible than strains that appeared earlier in the United States, and it's doubling about every 10 days in the country.

Last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modeling predicted the B.1.1.7 variant could become the predominant strain in the United States by March. It estimates the virus is about 50% more transmissible.

'Our study shows that the U.S. is on a similar trajectory as other countries where B.1.1.7 rapidly became the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, requiring immediate and decisive action to minimize COVID-19 morbidity and mortality,' researchers wrote in the study's preprint, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published.

In addition to groups of cases in California, Florida and Georgia, many B.1.1.7 cases in the United States did not report recent international travel, the report said, suggesting 'significant community transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant is already ongoing across the U.S.'

The new study, posted Sunday on the preprint server MedRxiv, is a collaboration of researchers from several institutions and the company Helix, which is one of the commercial, academic and public health labs that shares information on variants with the CDC.

US labs are still sequencing only a small subset of coronavirus samples, the paper said, so it's not clear what variants are circulating in the country. Without 'decisive and immediate public health action,' new, more transmissible variants 'will likely have devastating consequences to COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the U.S. in a few months,' the researchers warn.

Helix President Dr. James Lu told CNN last week the company had been tracking evidence that cases of B.1.1.7 are on the rise, and not just a product of increased genetic sequencing across the country.

'The rate of growth here in Florida and Southern California looks a lot like the type of growth that we have seen previously in the UK and Denmark ... where B.1.1.7 became the predominant variant strain pretty quickly,' Lu said.

It's unclear whether the pace of vaccination in the United States will prevent the strain from gaining a foothold in places where it's not already circulating, he added.

'We're in a race between the vaccine and the new strains,' Lu said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci last week suggested the US isn't vaccinating people fast enough to stay ahead of new variants. That could blunt the vaccine's efforts to bring cases down, he told CNN. 'If the variants and the mutations come, and start becoming dominant, then that's going to obviate some of the effects of the vaccine,' he said.

More than 610 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been found in 33 states, according to CDC. Most are in Florida and California. The first US case was announced December 29, but the earliest known cases stretch back earlier. Analysis in the new study suggests the B.1.1.7 variant arrived in the United States as early as late November 2020.

The strain has also been found in at least 80 countries and territories around the globe, the World Health Organization said last week.

The United States has also tallied five cases in two states of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, and two cases in one state of the P.1 variant first identified in Brazil.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359733

Reported Deaths: 4295
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56103709
Washington39002324
Marion37013454
Clackamas29983309
Lane27945302
Jackson23165310
Deschutes20559125
Umatilla14521150
Linn13048131
Douglas12196250
Josephine9430197
Yamhill8752113
Klamath8081119
Polk740581
Malheur565278
Benton555331
Coos507894
Columbia386044
Jefferson379553
Lincoln324239
Union321149
Crook293946
Wasco291141
Clatsop244728
Baker204129
Tillamook197932
Hood River194737
Morrow185723
Curry181325
Harney114427
Grant100213
Lake94812
Wallowa69312
Gilliam1564
Sherman1523
Wheeler1101
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4855616

Reported Deaths: 71443
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148576926552
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3682674196
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus867381338
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924354
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766788
Lassen761848
San Benito744974
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa137017
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
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