The highly transmissible variant coronavirus that cropped up in the UK late last year may be prevalent throughout the US by March, according to health experts.
On Friday, health officials called for continued mask wearing and social distancing to help curb the spread of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus.
The new strain has infected 76 people in 12 states and will likely continue to spread in the coming months. The new variant does not necessarily cause more severe illness, but it does spread more quickly, which could lead to an even greater demand for hospital beds.
The US has a limited window of time in which to prepare ahead of the new strain.
The coronavirus vaccine rollout in the US has been slower than officials initially projected. Health officials have cited a lack of leadership at the federal level and a lack of support for the slow start.
President-elect Joe Biden said his administration would fast track vaccine distribution with his American Rescue Plan. The programme would require bipartisan support, however, and it is unclear how soon the plan will go into effect.
Mr Biden's plan calls for hundreds of billions to be spent on a national vaccination plan.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on the new strain, and urged a robust public health response to counter the threat of increased transmission.
“The increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant warrants rigorous implementation of public health strategies to reduce transmission and lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7, buying critical time to increase vaccination coverage,” the report said.
The report said the increase of potential transmission may require a heightened vaccination campaign. Initially, coronavirus vaccines were planned to be distributed to high risk groups, seniors and essential workers first.
With the more contagious strain picking up speed in the US, there may be a need to open vaccination up to the general public sooner to help curb transmission.