February 3rd local time, The Washington Post reported that as of February 2, at least 33 states in the United States had found a total of 541 cases of B.1.1.7 Variant coronavirus infection.
Detection of Variant viruses in confirmed cases means “the fight against the pandemic in the U.S. becomes more urgent,” said Jennifer Nazo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
“Vaccines, social distancing, wearing masks, conducting mass nucleic acid tests, tracing close contacts and other pandemic prevention measures are more important than ever,” Nazo said.
Currently, the CDC is still ramping up genetic sequencing, but it is not fully aware of the spreading coronavirus.
A prediction released by the CDC last month shows that the B.1.1.7 variant virus found in the UK is likely to become the main virus spread in the United States sometime in March this year.
Variant virus will “hit the United States like a hurricane”
On January 31, Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert, predicted in an interview with NBC that the B.1.1.7 variant novel coronavirus found in the United Kingdom would be the main strain transmitted in the United States.
As the Variant virus spreads, the United States may usher in a “hurricane” pandemic..
Osterholm said that due to the discovery of Variant viruses in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, and the spread of these viruses, the United States may face a serious surge in confirmed cases in the next 6 to 14 weeks, which will become an “unprecedented pandemic”.
Osterholm also said that the United States needs to adjust its current vaccination strategy.
He said: “Before the arrival of a new pandemic, we need to vaccinate the American people against the coronavirus as much as possible to avoid the deterioration of the pandemic caused by various factors and slow down the growth of severe cases and deaths in the coming weeks.
The hurricane is coming, and we must think carefully.”
According to data released by the CDC, as of February 2, more than 50 million doses of vaccine had been distributed, with a total of more than 32 million doses, compared with more than 320 million people in the United States.
U.S. media pointed out that the distribution of vaccines in the United States is still very chaotic. Many states have reported shortages of vaccine reserves, and people are frustrated that they cannot get vaccines smoothly.
Why is the United States far behind in tracking Variant viruses?
While researchers around the world are stepping up on several Variant viruses, the United States is far behind in its ability to track Variant viruses.
The Guardian commented that the U.S. federal government has been “deep in the quagmire”, has failed to develop an effective monitoring system to track the virus, and lacked the ability to effectively monitor virus changes.
Several researchers said that for months, they have been urging government officials to take measures to make more efficient use of high-tech resources in major laboratories.
But the federal government has not acted for a long time and has not provided scientists with a relevant research budget.
The United States is also seriously lagging behind in sharing sequencing results with scientists around the world.
As of January 29, the United States has drawn and shared only 0.3% of the genetic sequence of COVID-19 cases, ranking 30th in the world, according to a study conducted by the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute and Harvard University.
“It’s just an ‘ostriches’ treatment, a sign of lack of leadership, and the federal government has never done anything,” said Diane Griffin, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.
Epidemiologist Patrick Escu said he hoped the federal government could establish an effective genetic surveillance system to regularly examine virus samples across the United States.
He said: “If we implement the corresponding pandemic prevention measures nine months or 10 months ago, the situation will be very different now.”