Vivek Murthy, named U.S. Surgeon General by President-elect Joe Biden, speaks as Biden announces his team tasked with fighting the Covid-19 pandemic at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 8, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s surgeon general said Sunday that the United States is in a race to adapt against the mutant coronavirus, which has spawned a number of potentially more infectious variants of Covid-19.
“The virus is basically telling us that it will keep changing and we need to be prepared for it,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy during an interview with ABC News’ This Week.
“We need to be number one, do much better genome monitoring so we can identify variants when they arise, and that means we need to double up on public health measures like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings,” Murthy said Biden’s candidate for the nation’s next surgeon general, he added.
He also called for an emphasis on treatment strategies as well as further investment in testing and contract tracking methods.
“So the bottom line is we’re in a race against these variants, the virus is going to change and it’s up to us to adapt and make sure we stay ahead,” said Murthy.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky said the US is stepping up surveillance to monitor variants of Covid and its impact on the effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics.
“I would say we were in one race the whole time,” Walensky told Fox News on Sunday. “The more viruses out there, the more viruses replicate, the more likely we are to have mutations and variants.”
On Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant, known as B.1.1.7, was linked to higher mortality rates. When asked, Murthy said the US needs more data on the UK variant before making the same decision.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical advisor on Covid-19, told CBS New “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the US “has every reason to believe” that the UK government is claiming the variant is more deadly.
“We must now assume that what was predominantly floating around the UK has some increase in what is known as virulence, especially the virus’ ability to do more harm, including death,” Fauci said, adding that the US will do so I want to keep access to UK health records.
Preliminary analysis of the mutant strain, first identified in the UK, suggests that it could be the culprit for the UK’s top in some cases. Johnson previously said the new variant could also be up to 70% more transferable. The UK government has also confirmed that another infectious variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa has emerged in the UK.
Continue reading: 5 things to know about the spread of the new strain of Covid in the UK
Last month, Colorado announced the first case of the new and potentially more infectious strain, Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last week that the British variant, already circulating in at least 10 states, could become the dominant variant in the US by March.
Fauci warned Sunday that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective against new strains of the coronavirus identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
“We’re going to look at this and monitor it very, very carefully as these things move on,” said Fauci, adding that the Biden government was already planning to modify the vaccines.
“We don’t have to do this now, but the best way to prevent these mutants from developing further is to vaccinate as many people as possible with the vaccines currently available,” he said.