As the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK becomes dominant in the U.S., doctors are warning that a fourth wave could be imminent.
There are at least 11,569 cases of the strain, known as B 1.1.7, in 49 of the 50 states and the Distinct of Columbia., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The two states, along with New Jersey, make up more than one-third, 34.2 percent, of all confirmed cases in America.
Several European countries have been experiencing new restrictions due to rising cases of variants and epidemiologist Dr Michael Osterholm told CNN it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. is next.
There are at least 11,569 cases of the strain, known as B 1.1.7, in the U.S., with cases confirmed in almost every U.S. state
Epidemiologist Dr Michael Osterholm (pictured)said he is expecting a surge in case sin the U.S. linked to the UK variant because the majority of the U.S. population isn’t vaccinated
‘I’m telling you right now…we are just beginning to surge. Denying it is not going to help us,’ Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told New Day.
‘We are walking into the mouth of this virus monster as if somehow we don’t know it’s here. And it is here. Now’s the time to do all the things that we must do to slow down transmission, not open up, and we got to get more vaccine out to more people.’
The UK variant was first discovered in the county of Kent in September but was not deemed a ‘Variant of Concern’ (VOC) until December.
Its name, B.1.1.7, derives from the location of its most significant mutations.
It now accounts for at least 90 percent of all cases in Britain.
Most estimates put it at about 70 percent more infectious than older ‘wild-type’ coronavirus variants, but more moderate projections say its transmissibility is only about 56 percent higher.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT UK VARIANT
‘UK VARIANT’ -B117
IS IT MORE INFECTIOUS? Yes, estimated to be 50-70% more infectious
IS IT MORE DEADLY? That isn’t well-established. The latest research suggests it may be up to 55% more fatal.
CAN IT ‘ESCAPE’ VACCINES OR REINFECT PEOPLE? No. Vaccines appear so far to work just as well against B117 and it does not seem to reinfect people.
This is because one of the variant’s many mutations is to the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter and infect human cells.
During a press conference on Wednesday, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky revealed that B.1.1.7 makes up between four percent to 35 percent of coronavirus cases depending on the region.
She says the CDC believes the variant currently makes up 26 percent of cases across the nation.
But in a new study, researchers from the Scripps Institute found that between December 2020 and February 2021, 67 percent of samples came back positive for the mutation.
Currently, Florida has the most cases of B.1.1.7, with one-fifth of all cases occurring – more than 2,300 – the Sunshine State.
Michigan has the second-highest number of variant cases, 10.6 percent overall, and is currently experiencing a spike in overall coronavirus infections
‘We’ve got a high proportion of variants, and that means coronavirus spreads faster,’ Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told CNN.
‘These are much more contagious and we’re seeing that whether it is at youth sports or it is the reengagement of some of our restaurants.’
New Jersey has also seen a 12 percent rise in cases and a spike in hospitalizations, which officials believe are linked to the variant and warned the numbers could stay high into the summer.
‘It is believed that the uptick in cases is due primarily to more contagious variants, for example B.1.1.7, the UK variant, coupled with less cautious behaviors,’ state health commissioner Judy Persichilli said on Wednesday.
A recent study estimated that the UK variant is now dominant with 67% of all samples tested tween December and February linked to the strain
Osterholm advocated for a strategy of giving as many people first shots as possible and then administering second shots in the summer when the stockpile increases
Osterholm told New Day that the U.S. needs to make sure as many people in the U.S. get first doses as possible, similar to a strategy being conducted in the UK.
A recent study found that one shot of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines offered about 80 percent protection.
He said that when the stockpile increases during the summer, then people can receive their second success.
‘This B.1.1.7 surge is going to happen. It’s not an issue of if. It’s going to happen,’ Osterholm said.
‘And if you follow what’s happened in the past year, the upper Midwest and Northeast lights up first. They have the first set of cases and the southern Sunbelt states light up next.
‘Even though we’re seeing a few cases in that area, mark my word, in the next six to eight weeks, we’re going to see that area light up too. We need to get more vaccine out. That’s the key message right now.’