UK coronavirus variant now ‘most common lineage’ in US, Walensky says

UK coronavirus variant now ‘most common lineage’ in US, Walensky says

The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant which was first discovered in the U.K. late last year is now the “most common lineage circulating in the U.S.,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday. Experts had predicted that the more transmissible strain would become the most dominate variant by the end of March, and numbers now indicate that it has, Dr. Rochelle Walesnky said in the White House COVID-19 briefing.

Walensky, who said the 63,000 daily coronavirus cases marks an increase of 2.3% from the prior 7-day average, and the 5,000 daily hospital admissions mark a 2.7% increase, also noted a 19.7% decrease in COVID-19 deaths to an average of about 745 per day.

She said that testing will remain an important strategy to identifying and isolating infected individuals, especially as sequencing reveals a wide spread of variants.

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The CDC currently has a team on the ground in Michigan, which is seeing a surge in cases and hospitalizations to work with state health officials in assessing outbreaks in correctional facilities and to increase testing capacities in the context of youth sports, which has been linked to several clusters.

Walensky said that the agency is also working with the state to surge vaccine supply to impacted areas. Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor on COVID-19 response, said that the White House was also working with the governor to move vaccine around within the state and determine which resources would best address the rising case numbers.

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“There is not one tool, there is a menu of things including staff, personnel, therapeutics, locations, and other kinds of things we review with states in this situation,” Slavitt said, later adding that the government is “by and large” continuing to allocate vaccine supply based on state population.

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“We are getting the amount of vaccines we think are needed for the population, because that’s fundamental, and then we are working on very tactical areas on how to both maximize that vaccine distribution so we get the things we want, efficiency, health equity and the other goals that we have,” he said.