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Amid coronavirus variants, US isn't 'out of woods' yet, warns expert: 'There are more surprises to come'

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Despite the recent dip in national virus cases, Andy Slavitt, the White House COVID-19 response team’s senior adviser, said Monday that the B.1.1.7 variant will likely fuel the next wave of case growth as the country pushes on with vaccinations.

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“Unfortunately we can’t predict the future and we know that this virus has been nothing but full of surprises for us since its come and I think there are more surprises to come,” Slavitt told MSNBC. “But I don’t think we are anywhere close [to] out of the woods. I don’t expect that we are going to be seeing just smooth sailing from here,” he added, in part. 

Slavitt’s comments followed shortly after a warning from Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, claiming that the next 14 weeks will be the worst in the pandemic.

Slavitt and Osterholm centered their projections around the variant strain first detected in the U.K.,1,173 total cases now reported across 40 states in the U.S., and its impact on the U.S. in the coming weeks. The comments come after new findings from the British government, concluding it “is likely that infection” with the B.1.1.7 variant “is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death compared” with other viruses.

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Based on multiple databases throughout the U.K., the scientists did say that the variant is likely 30% to 70% more deadly than the original strain. They had previously concluded that the variant was believed to be up to 70% more transmissible, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month tweeting that it “may also be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”

“The next 14 weeks I think will be the worst of the pandemic,” Osterholm told CBS ‘This Morning’ on Monday. “People don’t want to hear that, but if we look at what these variants are doing, particularly this one from the United Kingdom, and see what it did in Europe, see what it’s done in the Middle East, it’s now beginning to start that here in the U.S. We are going to see that unfold.”

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Following the guidance just released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on school reopenings, Osterholm predicted “big efforts” to open some schools, but a fast approaching surge in cases fueled by the variant will result in quick closures over the next six to eight weeks.

More than 14 million people in the U.S. have received two doses, and at least 52.9 million doses have been administered, per data collected by the CDC. Over 27.6 million people in the U.S. have been infected, with at least 485,000 lives lost to the novel disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fox News’ Alexandria Hein and David Aaro contributed to this report.

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