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As COVID-19 variants are “a growing proportion” of cases across the US — and we could see “another avoidable surge” of the virus like Europe if mitigation efforts go out the window, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday.
Two newly identified variants, B.1427 and B.1429, are estimated to make up about 52 percent of COVID-19 cases in California, 41 percent in Nevada and 25 percent in Arizona, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House press briefing.
The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the UK, is believed to account for 9 percent of the infections in New Jersey and 8 percent of those in Florida.
In New York City, the homegrown strain B.1.526 and the UK variant together account for 51 percent of cases, local officials said this month.
“The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high, and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States, is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation,” Walensky said.
“I get it — we all want to return to our everyday activities and spend time with our family, friends, and loved ones,” Walensky said, “but we must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer.”
The nation is “at a critical point in this pandemic,” the CDC head warned.
“We as a country must decide which path we are going to take. We must act now,” Walensky said.
“I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge, just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination.”
Several European countries, including France and Italy, have reinstituted lockdown measures as new variants fuel a third wave of infections in the continent.
Walensky said the Biden administration was encouraging governors and the private sectors to maintain or reimpose preventative measures.
“We’re doing outreach with states, territories to encourage them to look at their case data, to look at what’s happening with the variants and to do as much outreach as we can to try and slow down the relaxation,” she said.
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