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.
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.
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.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s best medical advisor on Covid-19, said last week that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective against new strains of the coronavirus.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, the United States, on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“Conclusion: We pay very close attention to it,” said Fauci of the known variants that have been identified in Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
“There are alternative plans if we ever need to modify the vaccine. It’s not a very onerous thing, we can do it given the platforms we have,” he told reporters during a White House news conference.