These 2 States Are "At Risk of Being Overrun" by the New COVID Strain
The former FDA commissioner says "it's a real risk to [these] regions of the country right now."
At the end of December, the U.S. reported its first known case of the more contagious strain of COVID from the U.K., known as B.1.1.7. In the month that's followed, that's grown nearly 500 percent. As of Jan. 31, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 467 cases of the U.K. COVID strain in the U.S. now, spreading across 32 states. Experts have cautioned that this new strain—along with others from South Africa and Brazil—could cause our current trajectory of new COVID cases to climb again. According to Scott Gottlieb, MD, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two states in particular are most "at risk of being overrun" by the new variant of COVID-19. Read on to find out which states he's most concerned about, and for more COVID news, find out why You Should Never Do This After Getting the COVID Vaccine, Officials Say.
Florida and California are the two states with the worst outbreaks of the U.K. strain.
In a Jan. 31 interview with CBS's Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked Gottlieb about the spread of B.1.1.7 and which states were most "at risk of being overrun" by the new strain.
"I think Miami is at the highest risk right now, Miami and southern California," he said. "If you look at where B.1.1.7 is right now in the country, about half the cases that we're turning over in southern California and in Florida and the cities are the hotspots—San Diego, Miami." For more on the current spread of COVID-19, find out The One Thing That Could Determine If Your COVID Case Is Severe or Not.
He believes the U.K. strain will take over by fall.
Recently, the CDC predicted that the U.K. variant will become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. But Gottlieb suggested that while B.1.1.7 will be prevalent in certain states, it won't fully supersede the existing strain of COVID-19 nationwide until quite a bit later.
"I think that the possibility is that we're not going to see a national epidemic with B.1.1.7 at least in the spring and the summertime. It's a risk to the fall," he said. "But what we're likely to see is regionalized epidemics with this new variant." And for more on where your state stands, check out How Many Cases of the New COVID Strains Are in Your State.
This new strain does appear to be more dangerous.
When it first gained wide attention in December, experts believed that the U.K. strain was more contagious, but no more deadly than previous variants. However, on Jan. 22, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. variant "may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," a notion White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, has since backed up.
"There's some evidence right now that does suggest that it is more pathogenic, that it does cause more severe illness," Gottlieb warned on Face the Nation. "And we do know that it's about 50 percent more transmissible." And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
But the vaccine and prior immunity are protective against it.
Gottlieb said there's still some good news about the U.K. strain. "What we also know from the data, at least the data we have so far, both experimental evidence as well as the data that's come out of some of these vaccine trials—like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial and the one with Novavax—is that immunization and prior infection appears to be protective against the B.1.1.7 variant," he said. And for more good news from Fauci on the subject, check out Dr. Fauci Finally Has Some "Very Encouraging" News About COVID.
Two things can keep the U.K. variant at bay.
"As we immunize more of the population and if people continue to wear masks and be vigilant in these parts of the country, we can keep this at bay," he said. "It's not too late, but it's a real risk to those regions of the country right now."
Gottlieb added that he believes "we have the potential to turn a corner." "Things are clearly improving around the country. We can't take our foot off the brake too quickly in terms of the things that people are doing, like wearing masks and being more vigilant," he said. "That's really probably what's bringing down infection rates across the country right now."
So, while this U.K. COVID variant is more dangerous, adhering to social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, and receiving the vaccine when you can is the most effective protection strategy. And for more on the latest in COVID-19 news, check out Dr. Fauci Says These 2 Side Effects Mean Your COVID Vaccine Is Working.