UK COVID Variant Spreading Rapidly in US. How Prevalent Is It Here in New England?

Massachusetts and Connecticut have already said it is present in those states

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The so-called United Kingdom coronavirus variant is already here in New England. That much we know.

Health officials in Massachusetts and Connecticut have already identified that the variant is present in those states. But how widespread is it?

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that seven cases have been identified in Massachusetts and 17 in Connecticut. No cases have yet been identified in the other four New England states, but Northeast states like New York (42), Pennsylvania (12) and New Jersey (11) all have identified cases.

A new report released Sunday said the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant is spreading quickly and could become dominant in the U.S. by late March. The study shows the U.S. is on a similar trajectory to other countries where the variant has already become prevalent.

“It is here, it’s got its hooks deep into this country, and it’s on its way to very quickly becoming the dominant lineage,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the new paper.

Right now, Florida has the most reported cases, with 187, followed by California at 145. Most other U.S. states are in the single or low double digits.

With new COVID-19 variants from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil now spreading, doctors are rushing to vaccinate as many Americans as possible before more mutations arise. Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a regional director of One Medical, joined LX News to talk about why vaccines are so important right now and how she encourages her patients to overcome their skepticism about it.

Baker, who announced last week that he was easing some COVID-19 restrictions, said he's been told to assume the variant has already been in Massachusetts for quite a while now.

"Our assumption, based on information from the health care folks, is we should be presuming (it was here) back to December and maybe Thanksgiving," he said. "And yet we have seen dramatic declines in hospitalizations and case counts."

Lamont, who recently eased some coronavirus restrictions in his state, also said it's highly likely there are more cases in Connecticut than just those that have been officially reported.

Neither governor said this is any cause for alarm at this time, but both said it increases the importance of continuing to take precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing good hygiene.

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