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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that at least 52 cases of the new COVID-19 strain had been found in the U.S.
California had at least 26 cases of the variant first discovered last month in the United Kingdom.
Florida (22 cases), Colorado (two), Georgia (one) and New York (one) were other states in which the new strain had been found, per CNN.
Although the new variant appears to be more contagious than the novel coronavirus, there’s no evidence that it’s more deadly. There’s also no evidence the strain can evade the effects of vaccines or treatments.
The CDC said the numbers only indicated infections found by analyzing positive samples and did not represent the total number of cases circulating in the country. Also, the agency’s statistics might not immediately match those of state and local health departments.
There could be many more cases of the variant in the U.S., according to experts, who have criticized the country for not doing more genetic sequencing of virus samples to monitor for mutations.
A CDC official told CNN the agency planned to more than double the number of samples it sequences over the next two weeks, targeting 6,500 per week.
“It’s important that we monitor the virus and that we be able to pick up these trends that have implications for public health and clinical medicine,” Dr. Gregory Armstrong, director of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection, told CNN on Sunday.
Dec. 19 in Florida is when the earliest known U.S. sample of the new variant was found, according to the genomic database GISAID. Collection dates are not available for all samples, however.
Because coronaviruses mutate constantly, doctors and scientists are concerned about the possibility that the virus could acquire changes that render it less vulnerable to vaccines or treatments.
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