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Vaccinations are well underway in the United States and COVID case numbers are falling—both indicating a better road ahead for the coronavirus pandemic. However, the fight is far from over, and there are still factors that seem to be worrying health experts. On Feb. 8, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky, MD, revealed what her "great concern" about COVID is right now. Read on to find out what she thinks could undo the country's progress in containing the virus, and for more news on the current state of the pandemic, President Biden Just Gave This Bleak COVID Update.
The CDC director said her "great concern" about COVID is emerging variants.
During a Feb. 8 White House COVID Task Force briefing, Walensky acknowledged that coronavirus numbers are taking a turn for the better. According to Walensky, COVID case numbers dropped nearly 20 percent from the prior week, while new hospitalizations dropped by 17 percent. However, she still has one major worry: new COVID strains.
"Although hospital admissions and cases are consistently dropping, I'm asking everyone to please keep your guard up," Walensky urged. "The continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing." And for more news on the coronavirus mutations, Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Scary Update on the New COVID Strain.
There are at least three new COVID variants in the U.S.
A Feb. 2 report from the CDC identified three new COVID variants that have already made their way into the United States: U.K. variant B.1.1.7, South Africa variant B.1.351, and Brazil variant P.1. According to Walensky, as of Feb. 7, 699 variant cases have been confirmed among 34 states in the country. As of right now, 690 of these cases are the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7. There are also six South Africa variant cases in the country within three states: South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. And there are three cases of the Brazil strain in Oklahoma and Minnesota. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The South Africa strain may limit the effectiveness of COVID vaccines.
Currently, the CDC is trying to determine how these new variants "may affect existing therapies, vaccines, and tests." According to the CDC, we know these variants spread more easily and quickly than prior strains, but the South Africa strain is causing further concern amongst health officials in terms of how it responds to current COVID vaccines. In fact, South African officials just paused the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in their country because it wasn't preventing illness in recipients, according to The New York Times. Even Moderna and Pfizer, the manufacturers of the two vaccines available in the U.S., have said that early studies show that their vaccines are somewhat less effective against this particular strain. And for essential vaccine guidance, Dr. Fauci Says Don't Do This After Your First COVID Shot.
Walensky said now is not the time to lift COVID restrictions.
Despite the emergence of new strains, declining cases and increased vaccinations have some states rolling back COVID restrictions. Walensky made it clear she does not endorse abandoning any mitigation measures. "I would discourage any such activity. We are still in the first 100 days where we want, certainly, everybody masked for the first 100 days," she said. "We have yet to control this pandemic. We still have this emerging threat of variants, and I would just simply discourage any of those activities. We really need to keep all of the mitigation measures at play here if we're really going to get control of this pandemic." And to make sure you're staying safe, If Your Mask Doesn't Have These 4 Things, Get a New One, Doctor Says.