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Anthony Fauci during a Senate hearing committee on March 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom may account for up to 30% of new COVID infections across the U.S., NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing on the virus Friday.

Why it matters: The variant, called B.1.1.7, has been detected throughout the U.S., and studies have suggested it appears to spread more easily than the original strain of the virus.

Context: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in January that the B.1.1.7 variant could become the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. this month.

  • The news comes after multiple states across the country have relaxed or rolled back their coronavirus restrictions.

What he's saying: "This variant, as you know, is everyday getting more and more dominant in our own country," Fauci said. “We’re at a position right now where we have a plateauing at around 53,000 cases per day."

  • “The concern is that throughout the country there are a number of states, cities, regions that are pulling back on some of the mitigation methods that we’ve been talking about: the withdrawal of mask mandates, the pulling back to essentially non-public health measures being implemented," he added.
  • Fauci said the best way to counter the variant is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible while maintaining public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus.

The big picture: Multiple European countries are currently managing a surge of cases as a result of variants.

  • Italy entered another lockdown this week that is expected to last at least through Easter weekend.
  • Regions across France, including Paris, entered month-long lockdown on Friday.
  • German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned Friday that COVID-19 cases are spiking at an "exponential rate" in the country and there may not be enough vaccine doses available to avoid a third wave.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said last week he believes the U.S. could face another surge from the B.1.1.7 variant.

Go deeper

Jun 21, 2021 - Health

The psychology behind COVID-19 vaccine lotteries

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NBA season tickets. Scholarships. A chance at $5 million. The list of lotteries and raffles states are launching to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates is growing, and some local officials are already reporting "encouraging" results.

Driving the news: The reason why, some psychologists and public health experts say, is that the allure of lotteries for many people is simply that the prospect of winning a great prize seems better than passing up the chance, regardless of the odds.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jun 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Fauci's offensive against "craziness"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

After becoming a top punching bag for the right, Dr. Anthony Fauci is defending himself with a sharp new edge, arguing that an attack on him is an attack on science.

What he's saying: In comments to Kara Swisher on her New York Times "Sway" podcast, shared first with Axios, Fauci says: "It is essential as a scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves. ... And that's the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science."