That New COVID-19 Strain Is Spreading

On Monday alone, the UK went under nationwide lockdown, California announced a growing number of cases, and New York confirmed its first.

People commute in New York City on January 04, 2021. | AFP/Getty Images
People commute in New York City on January 04, 2021. | AFP/Getty Images

A new and fast-spreading strain of COVID-19 that made its way to the U.S. last week has now been identified in at least five states and forced all of the UK to go under a weeks-long national lockdown.

Medical experts have said that while this new strain, B117, does not appear to be more severe in terms of illness or symptoms, it is significantly more transmissible, prompting concern of even more severe hospital overwhelm. COVID-19 has killed more than 1.8 million people globally.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a national lockdown through mid-February to “bring this new variant under control.” It has been spreading in the UK since emerging there in September.

The first U.S. case of the variant was confirmed in Colorado on Dec. 29, 2020, followed by California the next day, and Florida on Dec. 31, all among people with no known travel history.

In New York on Monday, Gov. Cuomo (D-NY) announced that a man in his 60s from Saratoga County with no travel history was confirmed to have the variant. Also on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) said the number of people with the strain in California is now up to six.

On Tuesday, Georgia health officials confirmed an 18-year-old man with no travel history had the variant.

The CDC’s website states that the variant, which has been identified in several other countries, “seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants.” The CDC added that “there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death.”

There is no known evidence on whether the recently approved COVID-19 vaccines will be more or less effective on the new strain.