A new COVID-19 challenge: Mutations rise along with cases. Get today’s latest virus updates.

The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge.

The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.

On Friday, the World Health Organization urged more effort to detect new variants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March. Although it doesn’t cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily, said the CDC, warning of “a new phase of exponential growth.”

“We’re taking it really very seriously,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Read more:

Here’s an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • Containing the coronavirus outbreak and repairing the economic damage it has inflicted are the top priorities for Americans as Joe Biden prepares to become the 46th president of the United States, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner.
  • Coronavirus deaths are rising in nearly two-thirds of American states as a winter surge pushes the overall toll toward 400,000 amid warnings that a new, highly contagious variant is taking hold.
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding a virtual meeting Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to discuss the country’s pandemic measures amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers and answers to common virus questions.

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