The variant, called B.1.1.7, has also been reported in at least 94 countries and detected in 50 jurisdictions in the United States, Fauci said during a White House press briefing on the pandemic, adding that the numbers are probably increasing.
The UK first identified the B.1.1.7 strain, which appears to spread easier and faster than other variants, last fall. It has since spread around the world, including the United States, Fauci said. US researchers identified 5,567 cases by genetic sequencing Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. health officials say the variant could become the dominant strain in the United States by the end of this month or early April.
The new variants are of particular concern to public health officials as they could become more resistant to antibody treatments and vaccines. Senior health officials, including Fauci, have urged Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, saying the virus cannot mutate if it cannot infect hosts and replicate.
Public health officials and Americans can counter the variant by doing two things, Fauci said. “Get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as quickly as possible with a vaccine that we know works against this variant, and finally to implement the public health measures we were talking about all the time … mask, physically distance and avoid collective environments, especially indoors. ”
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that the variant was associated with a 64% higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than previous strains. Researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol analyzed data from more than 100,000 patients in the UK between October 1 and January 28.
“We are currently in a position where we have a plateau at around 53,000 cases per day,” Fauci said. “The problem is that all over the country there are a number of states, cities, regions that are withdrawing from some of the mitigation methods that we are talking about: the withdrawal of masked warrants, the withdrawal essentially non-public. health measures being implemented. ”
Fauci’s comments on B.1.1.7 come a day after he confronted Republican Senator Rand Paul over the masks at a hearing.
Paul argued that people shouldn’t have to wear masks after being vaccinated because there is a “virtually 0% chance” that they will get Covid-19. “Isn’t that just theater?” Asked the junior senator from Kentucky, an ophthalmologist, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions.
In response, Fauci said the emergence of new, highly contagious variants poses a threat to people who have antibodies. “Can I just state for the record that the masks are not theatrical,” Fauci said. “I totally disagree with you. ”