SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory - Wind Advisory View Alerts

New CDC reports warn variants could lead to rapid rise in Covid-19 cases

New coronavirus variants could lead to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, and can "dangerously accelerate the trajectory of the pandemic," US health officials w...

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 12:58 PM

New coronavirus variants could lead to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, and can "dangerously accelerate the trajectory of the pandemic," US health officials warned Wednesday.

"I know these variants are concerning, especially as we're seeing signs of progress," US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Wednesday. "I'm talking about them today because I am concerned, too.

"The continued spread of variants that are more transmissible could jeopardize the progress we have made in the last month if we let our guard down."

In a report released Wednesday, researchers from the CDC and the Minnesota health department detailed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant -- first identified in the United Kingdom -- among eight Minnesota residents. Earlier modeling data has suggested this variant, which may be more transmissible, could become the predominant variant in the United States in March.

The new study, published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, described people ages 15 to 41 whose samples were collected from mid-December through mid-January; five reported Covid-19-like symptoms and three were asymptomatic.

Among the eight people, three had a history of international travel in the two weeks before they became ill, including two who traveled to West Africa and one who traveled to the Dominican Republic, and three others had traveled to California. One person was exposed to the virus at home, and another in the community. None had a history of travel to the UK.

Identification of the variant in Minnesota "highlights the importance of mitigation measures such as mask use, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, isolation of persons with diagnosed COVID-19, quarantine of close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and adherence to CDC travel guidance," the report says.

During the White House briefing, Walensky said it's "more important than ever for us to do everything we can to decrease the spread."

"Fewer cases means fewer opportunities for the variants to spread and fewer opportunities for new variants to emerge," she said.

On Tuesday, the CDC reported at least 1,299 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the United States. The vast majority of these cases, 1,277, are the B.1.1.7 variant originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 41 states and Washington, DC. Roughly a third are in Florida.

Nineteen of those 1,299 are the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa. The P.1 strain first linked to Brazil has been discovered among two cases in Minnesota and one in Oklahoma.

These numbers don't represent the total number of such cases circulating in the United States, but rather, only those found by analyzing positive samples.

Rapid increase in cases is 'not inevitable'

In a separate report released by the CDC on Wednesday, researchers in Zambia and elsewhere described how the detection of the B.1.351 variant in South Africa coincided with a rapid rise of cases in Zambia -- and the variant might have become the dominant strain there.

The B.1.351 variant also might be circulating elsewhere in southern Africa, where many countries reported rapid increases in Covid-19 case numbers in December and January, the report said.

"Spread of the B.1.351 variant is of public health concern because of the potential for increased transmissibility and, thus, increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths," researchers wrote.

In a related commentary also published Wednesday, Walensky, Dr. Henry Walke from the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote that genomic sequencing identified no cases of the B.1.351 variant in Zambia in March to early December 2020, but the variant was identified in 96% of samples sequenced from a one-week period in mid-December. That corresponded with a 16-fold increase in Covid-19 incidence in Zambia from early December to early January.

"The possibility of a similar experience in the US is a real threat," Walensky and her co-authors wrote in the medical journal JAMA. "However, such an outcome is not inevitable; the US and other countries have the capability to prevent this outcome from occurring with a strong and immediate public health response."

They note the US Department of Health and Human Services' SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group was developed to increase coordination among agencies, including to rapidly identify and monitor variants of concern. Agencies are evaluating testing, studying reinfection and assessing therapeutics. They continue to study how vaccines are impacted by the variants, and research "breakthrough" infections that occur after vaccination.

Although US Covid-19 cases are falling, they said reducing transmission is key, as is accelerated vaccination.

There's also a push to increase genome sequencing surveillance in the United States -- state health departments are handling 750 samples per week, and CDC is now contracting with commercial labs to "significantly increase" surveillance to more than 6,000 samples per week.

"A concerted and well-coordinated public health effort, together with rapid and widespread uptake of effective vaccines, is essential to remain ahead of the inevitable evolution of variants that could dangerously accelerate the trajectory of the pandemic," Walensky and her co-authors wrote.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4810682

Reported Deaths: 70604
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147569426398
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3641044163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871374
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 63°
Brookings
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 50°
Crater Lake
Mostly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 57°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 63°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 59°
Rain and snow continues overnight, partially drying out Monday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events