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Coronavirus variant strain could be in the US, Dr. Fauci warns

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Posted at 11:10 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 23:10:01-05

As a variant strain of the coronavirus spreads through the United Kingdom, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in an interview on ABC News on Tuesday that it’s possible the variant is in the US.

"That's certainly possible I mean, when you have this amount of spread within a place like the UK, that you really need to assume that it's here already, and certainly is not the dominant strain, but I would not be surprised at all if it is already here," said Fauci on ABC News.

The variant strain has fueled lockdowns and fears in the UK. It also has prompted much of the world to cut off travel to the UK. Health officials fear that the variant strain spreads more easily.

The United States has not cut travel between the two countries. Fauci does not expect that to be necessary.

“That's not that's not really in the cards right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the requirement of testing is something that is being actively considered right now," Fauci said.

The CDC reminded the public that viruses often mutate. The CDC added that it’s investigating why this version differs from the disease caused by other versions that are currently circulating.

As travel remains permitted between the two nations, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized officials for not cutting off travel. Cuomo did note that several airlines began testing passengers arriving in New York from the UK for the virus.

"Right now, this variant in the U.K. is getting on a plane and flying to JFK. Right now today,” Cuomo said. “One-hundred twenty countries require a test. We don't. Other European countries have done a ban. We haven't. And today that variant is getting on a plane and landing at JFK. How many times in life do you have to make the same mistake before you learn. Be one of the 120 countries that requires a test before you get on a plane to come to the U.S. This is the mistake we made."

The United Kingdom has implemented some of its strongest lockdowns since the onset of the pandemic in recent days. While not much is known about the mutated strain of the virus, it is believed to spread more easily.

"To our international friends and partners, I want to say very frankly that we understand your concerns and I hope everybody can see that as soon as we were briefed in UK government on the the fast transmissibility of this new strain, that I think 3:15 on Friday afternoon, we lodged all the necessary information with the World Health Organization and we took prompt and decisive action the very next day to curb the spread of the new variant," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.