Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
• None The World Health Organization criticized China for not letting a team of experts into the country to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
• None U.S. health officials announced that a new federal program would begin this week to give out vaccines at pharmacy stores to high-risk groups, including older people and frontline workers.
• None Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and vaccines in development.
Containing the new variant
Experts are worried that during the next few weeks the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.1.7 could explode in the United States, becoming the dominant variant and quickly overwhelming hospitals — as has happened in Britain.
The new variant has been more resistant to lockdown measures in Britain, according to new research. Dozens of cases of the new variant have now been discovered in at least five U.S. states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and New York.But public health experts say there is still time to contain it — if only they could see it.
Unfortunately, my colleague Carl Zimmer reports, the U.S. has no large-scale, nationwide system for checking coronavirus genomes for new mutations. Such a program could help deepen our understanding of the new variant, along with other, possibly more dangerous variants that may be on the horizon.
It’s even more important in the U.S., Carl told me, because the virus is so out of control. “The more mutation you have, the more of the chance you have that it’s going to turn into something dangerous,” he said.