White House warns of possible fast-spreading 'USA strain' of coronavirus
The White House Coronavirus Task Force has warned of the possibility of a new, more transmissible mutated variant of COVID-19 evolved in the United States. Apart from the UK strain detected weeks ago, this new "USA strain" might be fuelling the aggressive coronavirus spread in the country and could be 50% more transmissible, according to a report by the task force. Here's more.
This new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolved in the US is separate from the UK strain believed to be 70% more contagious, as per the task force's report issued to American states on January 3. It also said the recent spike in cases in the US has been nearly twice the rate of the spring/summer surges, suggesting a new variant has evolved there.
"This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges," CNN quoted the task force's report as saying. "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 and maybe 50% more transmissible," it said.
The task force, in its report, also called for "aggressive mitigation...to match a much more aggressive virus," adding mitigation should include effective use of face masks and immunization of as many people as possible. "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," it said.
In the report, the task force also highlighted the fact that the US "remains at a high plateau" of 140,000-150,000 confirmed and suspected coronavirus admissions every week and 120,000-125,000 total inpatients. "Significant continued deterioration, from California across the Sunbelt and up into the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, despite low testing rates during the holidays, suggests aggressive community spread," it said.
Amid the emergence of a possible, more dangerous coronavirus strain in the USA, the task force also urged to speed up the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. "Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease; recommend creation of high throughput vaccination sites with use of EMT personnel to monitor for potential anaphylaxis and fully utilize nursing students," it said.
"No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now; active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives," the task force stated in its report. To note, the US remains the world's worst-hit country in the COVID-19 outbreak and has reported over 21.8 million cases and 368,736 deaths so far.