Experts warn U.S. is blind to new virus variant
January 7, 2021
With no robust system to identify genetic variations of the coronavirus, experts warn that the U.S. is woefully ill-equipped to track a dangerous new mutant, leaving health officials blind as they try to combat the grave threat.
The variant, which is now surging in Britain, has the potential to explode in the U.S. the next few weeks, putting new pressures on hospitals already near the breaking point.
The U.S. has no large-scale, nationwide system for checking coronavirus genomes for new mutations, including the ones carried by the new variant. About 1.4 million people test positive for the virus each week, but researchers are only doing genome sequencing - a method that can definitively spot the variant - on fewer than 3,000 of those weekly samples. And that work is done by a patchwork of academic, state and commercial laboratories.