The first known United States case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant discovered in Britain was detected in Colorado on Tuesday as President-elect Joe Biden warned it could take years for most Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at current distribution rates, Reuters reports.
Biden’s prediction of a grim winter appeared aimed at lowering public expectations that the pandemic would be over soon after he takes office on Jan. 20, while putting Congress on notice that he wants to significantly increase spending to expedite vaccine distribution, expand COVID testing and help reopen shuttered schools.
Biden, a Democrat, said about 2 million people have received the initial dose of one of two newly approved two-dose vaccines, well short of the 20 million that outgoing Republican President Donald Trump had promised by year’s end.
“The effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. At the current rate, “it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
Shortly after Biden’s remarks, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said his state had discovered the nation’s first known case of the highly infectious coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was originally documented in the United Kingdom. Scientists there believe the variant is more contagious than other previously identified strains of the SAR-CoV-2 variant but no more severe in the symptoms it causes.
It has also been detected in several European countries, as well as in Canada, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan, among others.
Polis said in a statement the infected patient was a man in his 20s with no recent travel history who is currently in isolation in Elbert County, a semi-rural area on the outskirts of the greater Denver metropolitan area.
“Public health officials are doing a thorough investigation” and the individual has “no close contacts identified so far,” Polis said, adding that the state had notified the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).