Coronavirus: UK variant emerges as ‘dominant’ COVID-19 strain in US, CDC director says

WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday that the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom is “now the most common” strain of the virus circulating in the United States.

“Testing remains an important strategy to rapidly identify and isolate infectious individuals, including those with variants of concern,” CDC Director Dr. Rachelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

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The strain, known formally as B.1.1.7, has contributed to rising U.S. case counts in recent weeks because it has been shown to be more contagious among younger Americans, Walensky said.

Specifically, she said new COVID-19 outbreaks have been tied to youth sports and day care centers, and she implored states with increasing caseloads to suspend, or at least limit, youth sports activities to slow the virus’ spread.

According to the CDC, more than 16,000 cases of the variant had been detected across 52 U.S. jurisdictions as of Tuesday, with Florida reporting the highest concentration of the new strain, followed closely by Michigan, Wisconsin, California and Colorado, CNBC reported.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the United States had confirmed nearly 30.9 million cumulative coronavirus cases, which have resulted in nearly 557,000 fatalities nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Walensky also confirmed Wednesday that the United States was averaging about 3.1 million vaccine shots per day as of Monday but noted that rate must increase dramatically to keep pace with the more contagious variants circulating, CNBC reported.

“We must continue to vaccinate as many Americans as we can each day,” she said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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