Fauci: Assume new COVID-19 strain is in US

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciIntercept reporters discuss gain-of-function research The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration United Airlines CEO says employees exempt from vaccine 'won't be in front of customers' MORE, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said early Tuesday that Americans should assume a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus detected in the U.K. is already in the U.S.

It’s “certainly possible” that the strain is already present within the U.S., Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“When you have this amount of spread within a place like the U.K., you really need to assume that it’s here already. … It certainly is not the dominant strain but I would certainly not be surprised at all if it is already here," he said.

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Fauci on Monday counseled against “overreacting” to the new strain and against a temporary travel ban in response.

Asked on Tuesday about those recommendations, he called travel bans “rather draconian,” noting that New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoLetitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' MORE (D) is also discussing the testing of all arrivals in New York City.

“That’s a big difference than completely shutting off travel and banning travel completely, which is really a rather dramatic step. That’s not really in the cards right now,” he said.

Asked later if he believed a travel ban could be necessary, Fauci responded: “I think one of the important things we need to do is to actually do surveillance here and find out. It might actually be here. I doubt that it’s the prevalent strain but as the governor said, it is entirely conceivable that it’s already here.”

Several nations, including multiple countries in Europe, have banned flights from the U.K. as a result of the new strain. Public health experts have said that despite being more infectious, the new strain does not appear to be deadlier, and the CEO of BioNTech, which manufactures a vaccine for the virus, said its vaccine would likely be effective against the variant.