New COVID Strain May Cause a Devastating New Wave


Sarah Ousterhout

The spread of a new coronavirus strain, B.1.1.7,  has become a cause of concern for many. It has gone from being non-existent to relatively common in just a matter of  months. This strain, which was first found in the United Kingdom, has now been spotted in at least 22 states in the United States. 

So, what do we know? According to the CDC, several variants of COVID-19 are circulating globally, one of which has become especially apparent in the U.K. B.1.1.7 was first found in September of 2020. One of the worrying factors of this variant is how fast it spreads. Labs have already discovered that some of COVID-19  mutations have an increased ability to infect cells. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strain could be up to 70% more transmissible. This number was mentioned in a presentation led by Dr. Erik Volz, who works in medicine at the Imperial College in London. He said that while it is too early to tell, “from what we see so far it is growing very quickly, it is growing faster than [a previous variant] ever grew.” 

However, while this variant seems to spread much more easily than others, there has yet to be evidence that it causes more severe illness. Nonetheless, the new variant’s increased transmission rates are enough to cause problems in hospitals because increased transmission will lead to more people needing to be hospitalized.

As of January 23, 2021, a total of 195 infections for this strain have been reported in the U.S. The first reported case was in Colorado. Currently, California holds the most reported cases of all the states at 72 confirmed cases. Florida is next with 50 cases, and New York is third with 22 reported cases.

Boris Johnson has responded to the strain by re-initiating lockdowns in most of England. As for the U.S., it has restricted travel from the U.K. However, these measures were clearly taken too late, as the variant has now been found in 49 countries, such as Japan and Australia. While the U.S. contains about 4% of the world’s population, almost 25% of COVID-19 cases have occurred in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. So, scientists and researchers are not very optimistic that the United States will be able to keep the variant contained. The CDC expects that it may possibly become the most common strain by March of 2021.