As coronavirus variants unfold, the US struggles to maintain up

Masked people converse in front of whiteboard.

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Throughout the US, the coronavirus is in retreat. The pandemic remains to be raging, thoughts you, with greater than 70,000 new circumstances nonetheless reported every day. However for the reason that post-holiday peak in mid-January, the seven-day common of latest circumstances has fallen by practically 64 %. Hospitalizations have plunged too. And with vaccinations accelerating, there’s a glimmer of hope that this downward development could be the beginning of COVID’s lengthy slide towards containment, no less than within the US and different rich international locations which can be hogging the photographs.

However retreat doesn’t at all times imply defeat. And the emergence of a number of worrisome new coronavirus variants with new tips for spreading quicker or evading immune responses presents one other risk: that the present reprieve will solely be short-term. Public well being consultants are urging governments to organize for a doable new wave of infections pushed by variants like B.1.1.7, which has already been recognized in additional than 1,200 US circumstances and in practically each state, in line with knowledge from the US Facilities for Illness Prevention and Management.

That’s greater than double the quantity reported two weeks earlier. However the true quantity is probably going far increased. How a lot increased? Nobody is aware of. That’s as a result of the one option to inform which model of the coronavirus is inflicting an an infection is to sequence its genome. On this nation, that must be straightforward sufficient—the US is a sequencing superpower. It has dozens of educational establishments and big business labs with the capability to crank out genomes at a speedy clip. However the federal authorities’s response by means of a lot of the pandemic didn’t embody a plan to mobilize America’s DNA-mappers right into a coordinated coronavirus-monitoring corps. SARS-CoV-2 surveillance, effectively, sucked.

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