Story at a glance
- CNN obtained reports detailing the possibility of a new COVID-19 variant starting in the U.S.
- More contagious strains of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.K. and South Africa.
- The U.S. CDC contradicted these reports on Friday.
Countries like the U.K. and South Africa are reporting new mutations of COVID-19, which are currently spreading across the world, having recently landed in the U.S.
Given the changing nature of viruses, it is possible the U.S. could see — or perhaps even already has — its own variation, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
CNN published reports from the federal government dated Jan. 3 that warn of the chance of a “USA variant” of the coronavirus.
“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible,” the documents reportedly said.
However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a separate statement on Friday confirming that there is no evidence yet that points to a mutation specific to the U.S.
A CDC spokesperson confirmed to reporters that while viruses naturally mutate, it could take months for scientists to identify a new COVID-19 strain similar to ones seen in other countries.
"Researchers have been monitoring U.S. strains since the pandemic began, including 5,700 samples collected in November and December," the CDC spokesperson wrote. "To date, neither researchers nor analysts at CDC have seen the emergence of a particular variant in the United States as has been seen with the emergence of B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom or B.1.351 in South Africa."
White House officials recommended more stringent mitigation measures to halt a potentially more transmissible virus. These include continued usage of face masks in public and rapid vaccinations.
“Without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as these variants spread and become predominant,” the reports added.
This news comes as the U.S. records its deadliest day, reporting 4,000 deaths in a single day due to COVID-19.