General Information

There are currently five notable variants in the United States.

Alpha

(B.1.1.7)

This variant was first detected in the United States in December 2020. It was initially detected in the United Kingdom. The Alpha variant is currently classified as a variant of concern. It accounts for 20.3% of new cases in the New York area as of July 2021. 

Beta

(B.1.351)

This variant was first detected in the United States at the end of January 2021. It was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020. The Beta variant is currently classified as a variant of concern. It accounts for 0.1% of new cases in the New York area as of July 2021. 

Delta

(B.1.617.2)

This variant was first detected in the United States in March 2021.  It was initially identified in India in December 2020. The Delta variant is currently classified as a variant of concern. It accounts for 56.6% of new cases in the New York area as of July 2021. 

Lambda

(C.37)

This variant was first detected in Peru in December 2020. The Lambda variant is currently classified as a variant of interest, and continues to be monitored by the WHO. As of July 2021, there is no information as to how many new cases in the New York area can be attributed to the Lambda variant.  

Gamma

(P.1)

This variant was first detected in the United States in January 2021. P.1 was initially identified in travelers from Brazil. The Gamma variant is currently classified as a variant of concern. It accounts for 5.7% of new cases in the New York area as of July 2021. 

Variant FAQs

What is a variant?

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur. If you think about a virus like a tree growing and branching out, each branch on the tree is slightly different than the others. By comparing the branches, scientists can label them according to the differences. These small differences, or variants, have been studied and identified since the beginning of the pandemic. 

How do variants impact vaccine efficacy?

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective. In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants.

How are variants classified?

1. Variants of Interest: These have genetic markers that have been associated with higher risks of transmission, reinfection or severe illness, as well as reduced vaccine effectiveness.

2. Variants of Concern: There is evidence these are more likely to spread, cause reinfection or cause severe illness, as well as reduce vaccine effectiveness.

3. Variants of High Consequence: There is clear evidence that existing prevention tactics, including vaccination, are less effective against these variants.

How do variants impact transmissability?

These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

More from the CDC & WHO

Information about variants is constantly evolving and information is accurate to the time it was updated.