Anthony Fauci Says New COVID Strain in U.K. Has Probably Reached the U.S.

Veteran government scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the new coronavirus mutation that has emerged in the U.K. is likely already in the U.S.

Scientists in the U.K. say early evidence suggests the new strain—dubbed the "B.1.1.7 lineage" or "VUI–202012/01—is better at infecting people, but does not appear to be more deadly.

Fauci, a White House coronavirus task force adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed the new strain on PBS NewsHour Monday.

"We have to make that assumption [that it has arrived in the U.S.]" said Fauci. "When you see something that is pretty prevalent in a place like the U.K., there are also mutations that we're seeing in South Africa, and given travel throughout the world, I would not be surprised if it's already here. When we start to look for it we're gonna find it."

He went on that the strain is "certainly" not the most prevalent in the U.S. "the way it seems to have assumed that prevalent nature in the U.K., but we're going to be looking for it right now and I'm sure sooner or later we're going to run into it and find it."

Fauci said the strain was something to "keep an eye out on, you don't want to just blow it off, certainly not." He said the coronavirus that causes COVID is what is known as an RNA virus, which tends to mutate "a lot." Most mutations are not important to how the virus functions, but the ones identified in the strain may allow it to spread more readily, he said. Scientists are still seeking evidence to prove or disprove this idea.

Fauci said the mutations do not appear to impact the protective nature of the vaccines being used.

His remarks on the effectiveness of vaccines in the face of the new mutation echoed those of other high-profile figures, including White House coronavirus testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the Operation Warp Speed vaccine distribution effort.

Vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna have said they are testing their shots to check they work against the strain.

In a separate interview on Monday, Fauci told CNN: "Follow it [the strain] carefully, but don't overreact to it."

In both interviews, Fauci advised against suspending travel from the U.K. He told PBS that the option of testing arrivals from the U.K. for the coronavirus should be considered.

His comments came the day that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told MSNBC that Delta and British Airways had agreed to ensure passengers planning to fly to New York from the U.K. test negative for the virus before traveling.

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, December 18, 2020. Fauci has said it is likely a new strain of coronavirus found in the U.K. has arrived in the U.S. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images