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Fauci: COVID-19 variant likely accounts for up to 30 percent of US infections

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: All adults in US now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine | White House launches media blitz to promote vaccines Suspect in custody in deadly Wisconsin tavern shooting White House launches media effort to promote coronavirus vaccines MORE, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, warned that variants of the coronavirus could account for up to 30 percent of infections in the U.S.

Fauci specifically sounded the alarm at a White House press conference Friday over the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom and has since spread across the globe.

“This variant, as you know, is every day getting more and more dominant in our own country,” Fauci said.

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“It was first detected in the U.K. in December of 2020. It was reported in over 90 countries. The first U.S. cases were detected in the United States, in Colorado, at the end of December of 2020. And since then, it has been detected in 50 jurisdictions in the United States, and likely accounts now for about 20 to 30 percent of the infections in this country, and that number is growing," he said.

Fauci noted experts’ concerns that the variant is more easily transmissible and that a serious infection is more likely once it is contracted.

“Of concern is that there are about 50 percent increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the U.K., and there’s likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant,” he said. 

Public health officials have specifically pointed to the U.K. variants, as well as other strains, in their calls for the public to not ease up on following safety guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing.

One study showed a 64 percent increased risk of death for people who contract the B.1.1.7 variant, and another showed a 61 percent higher risk of death.

However, vaccines have proven to be effective against the variant.

“The way we can counter 1.1.7, which is a growing threat in our country, is to do two things: to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the vaccine that we know works against this variant; and finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” said Fauci.