Highly contagious COVID variant first found in UK is now in California and Colorado, could change course of pandemic in US

"The overall picture is pretty grim."
—Bill Hanage, Harvard epidemiologist

New York Times, December 30, 2020

In Colorado and California, there are now two confirmed cases of that new and highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the UK. Neither of these two confirmed cases of COVID variant B 1.1.7 has a travel history, which suggests community transmission.

Apoorva Mandavilli of the New York Times reports that a household contact of the California case started feeling symptoms yesterday, and is being tested. "Bottom line" on COVID variant B 1.1.7, tweets the NYT's Mandavilli, "The variant is here and will spread."

"The CDC plans to track new variants by sequencing as many as 3,500 genomes per week," she tweeted today. "In the meantime, we have an exponential surge, a slow vaccine rollout, and citizens defying restrictions."

Excerpt from her report from the New York Times:

"The overall picture is pretty grim," said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The arrival of the variant also makes it all the more imperative that Americans receive vaccinations in great numbers, and more quickly, scientists said. A pathogen that spreads easily is more difficult to contain, and a greater percentage of the population must be inoculated to turn back the pandemic.

Yet even as the variant surfaced in the United States, officials with the Trump administration acknowledged on Wednesday that the vaccine rollout was going too slowly. Just 2.1 million people had received their first dose as of Monday morning, far short of the 20 million goal.

Read more at the New York Times.