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UK coronavirus variant now most common strain in US, CDC head says

A more contagious variant of coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain of the virus in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyWhite House on Whitmer's handling of pandemic: She's shown 'serious' grit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure Michigan's spike highlights fatigue over restrictions MORE said Wednesday.

The announcement highlights the ongoing risks from the virus, given that the variant, known as B.1.1.7, spreads more easily and therefore is more able to cause spikes in cases.

"Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States," Walensky said at a White House press briefing.

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"The virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm's way and we need to remain vigilant," she added. "We need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and take the individual responsibility to get vaccinated when we can."

Importantly, officials say the current vaccines work well against the variant, meaning that the accelerating vaccination campaign will help control the virus even with the rise of this variant.

But in the short term, there are concerning signs in some places, such as Michigan, which is seeing an alarming spike in cases and hospitalizations.

Cases are also ticking up nationally, around 64,000 per day. Deaths have fallen as more vulnerable people get vaccinated, but there are still more than 700 people dying every day, highlighting the need to maintain precautions like mask-wearing and distancing until vaccinations are more widespread.