Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing czar, said Monday that the new mutation of COVID-19 that has spread across the UK is “likely” already in this country – but stressed that there is no evidence yet of its presence.
Giroir, the US assistant secretary of health, said on “Good Morning America” that officials suspect that the new variant has already made the jump from the UK to North America despite ongoing travel restrictions, The Hill reported.
“We don’t have proof that it’s here, but we do suspect that it is likely here, given the global interconnectedness,” he said. “We have no evidence that it’s here. It’s certainly not widespread here, but we need to look and make sure it’s not here.”
Giroir added: “And we still believe — don’t have absolute proof — but we have very good evidence and a good belief that the vaccines will still be effective.”
While the new strain is believed to spread at a faster rate, there is “no evidence that it is more serious” than the version that has been plaguing the nation and the rest of the world for months, he said.
Giroir’s comments mirrored those of former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb, who told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the new strain is “probably here in the United States” in a “reasonable” number of people.
“We don’t sequence a lot of samples in this country, and a lot of that sequencing that does get done gets done in private labs and doesn’t get aggregated into public databases. That needs to be fixed,” Gottlieb said of testing issues that complicated efforts to track the new variant in the US.
“In the UK, they’re sequencing about 10 percent of all the samples. Here we’re doing a fraction of 1 percent,” he added, The Hill reported.
On Sunday, Giroir expressed confidence that the new strain is no more deadly than the more common one.
“We don’t know if it’s here or not, there’s certainly a possibility that it’s here or not,” Giroir said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It is not any more serious than the normal stains of COVID. You can still protect yourself by the mitigation measures … we have no evidence to suggest, nor do we believe that the vaccine would not be effective.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, also said last week the mutated bug is likely in the US given international travel.