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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced the news during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, stating the B.1.1.7 variant “is now the most common lineage circulating in the” U.S. The variant was discovered in the U.K. last fall and is believed to be more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original COVID-19 strain. The CDC reports there are now 16,275 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the country; California, Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin have reported the highest number of confirmed cases.
Walensky went on to acknowledge the nation’s increasing positivity rates and hospitalizations, despite the growing number of vaccinations. She pointed to data that suggests these surges are a result of the “increasing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants.” Walensky said in order to mitigate the spread of B.1.1.7, it’s important to continue COVID-19 testing, adhere to coronavirus safety measures, and ramp up vaccinations, which appear to be effective against the U.K. variant.
“The virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm’s way, and we need to remain vigilant ...” she said. “We need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and take the individual responsibility to get vaccinated when we can.”
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden announced every adult American will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19—an eligibility deadline that was initially set for May 1.
“We know what we have to do. We have to ramp up a whole of government approach that rallies the whole country and puts us on a war footing to truly beat this virus,” Biden said. “And that’s what we’ve been doing, getting enough vaccine supply, mobilizing more vaccinators, creating more places to get vaccinated, and we’re now administering an average of 3 million shots per day, over 20 million shots a week.”
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