- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 16, 2021

The highly contagious coronavirus variant from the U.K. could become the dominant strain circulating the United States by March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week. 

The variant, known as B117, doesn’t appear to cause more serious illness but has a higher rate of transmission, which will lead to more cases, increase the number of people in need of medical care, worsen the burden on an already stressed health care system and result in more deaths, CDC researchers said in a study released Friday. 

“The experience in the United Kingdom and the B117 models presented in this report illustrate the impact a more contagious variant can have on the number of cases in a population,” the researchers wrote. “The increased transmissibility of this variant requires an even more rigorous combined implementation of vaccination and mitigation measures (e.g., distancing, masking, and hand hygiene) to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread of the B117 variant.” 

The health care system should prepare for more surges in infections, and increased transmissibility of the coronavirus could mean having to ramp up vaccination coverage for disease control, the researchers added. 

As of Friday, 88 cases of the B117 coronavirus variant have been detected in 15 states: California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. The coronavirus variants from South Africa and Brazil have not yet been detected in the U.S.

COVID-19 has sickened more than 23.5 million people and claimed the lives of more than 393,000 in the U.S. as of Saturday, according to a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. 

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