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U.K. variant most dominant strain of COVID-19 in U.S., CDC says

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said testing indicates a variant known as B.1.1.7 has become the most dominant COVID-19 strain in the United States. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said testing indicates a variant known as B.1.1.7 has become the most dominant COVID-19 strain in the United States. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that the so-called U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus has become the most dominant strain of the virus in the United States.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the findings during a COVID-19 Response Team update.

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"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," she said.

Scientists have said the variant, first identified in Kent, England, in September, is more contagious and up to 100% more deadly than the original strains of the virus. In January, U.S. public health officials predicted it would become the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States by the spring.

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Walensky said the growing predominance of the U.K. variant could lead to a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

The United States reported 61,258 new cases Tuesday, up from a 2021 low of 39,048 on March 21. Hospitalizations have also increased to about 5,000 per day.

Meanwhile, deaths have declined mostly steadily since a peak of 4,400 in January. The United States reported 736 deaths Tuesday.

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White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt attributed the decline in deaths to the growing number of vaccinations in the United States. As of Tuesday evening, nearly 110 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 33% of the population. Sixty-four million have been full vaccinated, nearly 20% of the population.

"Even as we vaccinate Americans in record numbers, we're still not even halfway there and the progress we've made can be reversed if we let our guard down," he said.

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