President Joe Biden responds to a question after commenting on the COVID-19 response and vaccination status in the South Court Auditorium in the White House complex in Washington, DC on March 29, 2021.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

The Biden government on Friday announced it would allocate $ 1.7 billion to track the highly infectious variants of coronavirus that are now a major threat to the U.S. fight against the pandemic.

The $ 1.9 trillion Covid relief plan that went into effect last month will help improve detection, monitoring and mitigation of “new and potentially dangerous strains,” a press release said White house.

According to the White House, the Covid variants now account for around half of all cases in the United States. The mutations can be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Their continued spread “makes the race to interrupt broadcasts even more difficult and threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system in parts of this country again,” Walensky said at a press conference.

It found that B.1.1.7, the variant originally identified in the UK, represented 44% of the US Covid circulation for the week of March 27th.

The proliferation of variants is contributing to a “very worrying” increase in cases, hospitalizations and emergency room visits, Walensky said. The average daily deaths rose to over 700 for the third day in a row, she said.

The White House said $ 1 billion of the government’s latest coronavirus investment will be used to help the CDC and other health officials expand genome sequencing, which will help them identify mutations.

“The emergence of variants underscores the critical need for rapid and continuous genomic surveillance,” said Walensky.

The White House said $ 400 million of the remaining funds would “fuel cutting-edge research in genomic epidemiology” by establishing six “centers of excellence” that form partnerships between health departments and academic institutions.

The last $ 300 million will be used to strengthen the so-called bioinformatics infrastructure “to create a unified system for sharing and analyzing sequence data that protects privacy but enables more informed decisions,” the White House said.

An initial tranche of $ 240 million will be paid out to US states and territories in early May, with California, Texas and Florida receiving the largest amounts. The White House said more money will be invested over a period of several years.

Health experts continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated against Covid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said in a Congressional hearing on Thursday that B.1.1.7 “is very well covered by the vaccines we use” and that so are other variants when the vaccination does not does It does not protect against an initial infection, but against serious illnesses. “

“We are in a race between vaccinating as many people as possible and as quickly as possible and the risk of virus recurrence in our country,” said Fauci.