Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuted reports of a new strain of coronavirus in the U.S. based on what they said was speculation from White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx.
Birx suggested to other members of the task force that there might be a new strain in the United States based on the rapid increase of infections. That hypothesis was included in a summary sent to state governors.
“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible,” the report read according to the New York Times.
“Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus,” she added.
The Times reported that the CDC reached out to Birx in an attempt to have that suggestion removed from the summary sent to governors. A source told the Times that the request was denied, to their great frustration.
A spokesman for the CDC explained in an email to CNBC News why they believed Dr. Birx’s hypothesis was premature.
“Researchers have been monitoring U.S. strains since the pandemic began, including 5,700 samples collected in November and December,” wrote Jason McDonald.
“To date, neither researchers nor analysts at CDC have seen the emergence of a particular variant in the United States as has been seen with the emergence of B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom or B.1.351 in South Africa,” he added.
The Times reported that they reached out for comment from Birx about the dispute but did not receive a response.