Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading experts on the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, said Americans should “assume” a new, more contagious strain of the virus first detected in the U.K. is already in the U.S.
The new variant found in the U.K. first appeared in November and reportedly accounts for 60% of recent infections in London, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC warned that it may be “better fit to spread in humans,” that it “mutates regularly,” and that it could “potentially be more rapidly transmissible than other circulating strains.”
Though health experts have not detected the new strain in the U.S. yet, Fauci said it is “certainly possible” that it is already here and that Americans should act as if it is.
“When you have this amount of spread within a place like the U.K., you really need to assume that it’s here already. … It certainly is not the dominant strain but I would certainly not be surprised at all if it is already here,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says it’s “certainly possible” that the new, virulent COVID strain in the U.K. is already in the United States — “you really need to assume it’s here already.” https://t.co/W39hzNlWx1 pic.twitter.com/tiz3xfhzRm
— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 22, 2020
When asked about potential travel bans from areas of the world that have new strains of the coronavirus, Fauci called such measures “rather draconian” and urged officials not to “overreact.”
“That’s a big difference than completely shutting off travel and banning travel completely, which is really a rather dramatic step. That’s not really in the cards right now,” he said.
The appearance of a new coronavirus strain could pose a risk to widespread vaccination, the CDC acknowledged.
“Among these possibilities, the last — the ability to evade vaccine-induced immunity — would likely be the most concerning because once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, there will be immune pressure that could favor and accelerate emergence of such variants by selecting for ‘escape mutants,’” the agency explained.