FDA warns new coronavirus mutations can cause false negative Covid-19 test results in some cases


A sign Provincetown, Massachusetts, informs people of a mandatory mask zone on July 10.
A sign Provincetown, Massachusetts, informs people of a mandatory mask zone on July 10. Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The US may have its own version of a more transmissible coronavirus that might be helping fuel the already aggressive spread of the virus, the White House coronavirus task force said in its latest report to states this week.

Reports sent by the task force to states dated Jan. 3 warned of the possibility of a “USA variant” of Covid-19.

“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,” reports obtained by CNN said.

The task force called for “aggressive mitigation… to match a much more aggressive virus.”

That mitigation should include the use of face masks, the task force said, and immediate vaccination of as many people as possible.

“Without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as these variants spread and become predominant.”

The US has been tracking cases of a variant first identified in the UK that appears to be more easily transmitted.

The pandemic continues to rage as the nation has turned its attention to the insurrection at the US Capitol and the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and the task force continued to warn states of “aggressive community spread” after the holiday season. 

“The United States remains at a high plateau of 140-150,000 confirmed and suspected COVID admissions per week and 120-125,000 total inpatients. Significant continued deterioration, from California across the Sunbelt and up into the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, despite low testing rates during the holidays, suggests aggressive community spread,” the task force reports said. 

The task force reports also called for the establishment of outpatient monoclonal antibody treatment infusion sites “immediately available to save lives.”

And as the nation struggles to rapidly immunize Americans, the reports said that vaccines must “be put in arms now.” 

“Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease; recommend creation of high throughput vaccination sites with use of EMT personnel to monitor for potential anaphylaxis and fully utilize nursing students. No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now; active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives,” the reports said. 

This week, California is the state with the most new cases per 100,000 population, followed by Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Utah, Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia, and Massachusetts in the top 10. 

Test positivity, an indication of rising cases to come, is highest in Oklahoma, followed by Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. 

Arkansas has the most hospital admissions per 100 inpatient beds, followed by Arizona, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, California, District of Columbia, South Carolina, and New Mexico.

And Kansas has the most new deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Arizona, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.



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