B117 now most common COVID-19 variant in the US

B117, the coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom in December, is now the most common variant in United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH.

Walensky made the announcement today during the White House press briefing on the pandemic. She said the variant was behind the recent spike in cases, which has the United States seeing an average of 63,000 new cases each day.

Young adults, kids in youth sports, and people associated with daycare centers are among the new cases, Walensky said. These populations are not likely to have been vaccinated yet, but may be taking more risks as states loosen restrictions.

Hot spots emerge in Michigan, New York 

The United States reported 61,775 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and 915 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, 30,876,041 cases have been confirmed in the United States, including 558,626 deaths.

An Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows that only five states — New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey —  accounted for 44% of the nation's new COVID-19 infections in the latest available 7-day period.

Michigan in particular has seen soaring case counts, which is now being followed by rising rates of hospitalizations. State hospitalizations are at their highest point since December, and are being driven by a younger, unvaccinated population, Michigan Radio reports.

Michigan officials said the B117 variant has spread like wildfire in the state and seems to be causing larger outbreaks among unvaccinated adults. Vaccinated people account for 4.6 cases per 100,000 [residents] in Michigan, compared to 345 cases per 100,000 among unvaccinated people. 

Michigan follows Florida as the state with the most B117 cases detected, per the CDC. Wisconsin, California, and Colorado also have significant levels of the variant. 

White House urges seniors to get vaccinated now

On the heels of President Biden's announcement yesterday that all Americans over the age of 18 will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Apr 19, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for COVID Response, urged those 65 and older to get their vaccines now.

Currently, Slavitt said 75% of Americans aged 65 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 55% are fully vaccinated.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 225,294,435 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the US, and 171,476,655 have been administered, with 64,422,618 Americans fully vaccinated. In general, the nation is averaging roughly 3.1 million shots per day.

80% of teachers vaccinated 

Yesterday the CDC announced that nearly 80% of teachers, school staff, and childcare workers across the country had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after a March push, led by President Biden, to vaccinate teachers as a way to open schools for in-person learning. 

"Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff, and childcare workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning," said Walensky in a press statement. "CDC will build on the success of this program and work with our partners to continue expanding our vaccination efforts, as we work to ensure confidence in COVID-19 vaccines."

According to the CDC, more than 2 million teachers and staff were vaccinated through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program during the month of March, and another 5 million to 6 million were vaccinated through their state programs through the end of March.

In February, a new survey showed only 46% of public schools offered 5 days a week of in-person learning, and only 34% of students were learning full-time in the classroom, according to the Associated Press. 

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