(KYMA, KECY/CNN) - Health officials are "extremely" worried about the new Covid-19 variants that have been detected in the US and what they could mean over the coming months, one expert said Monday night.
"We've seen what happens in other countries that have actually had coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took over and they had explosive spread of the virus, and then overwhelmed hospitals," emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Officials in Minnesota announced Monday they detected the P.1 variant of the virus in a traveler from Brazil. The variant is one of four being closely watched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appears to be more easily transmissible. CDC officials have also said another variant -- called B.1.1.7 and first spotted in the UK -- has been detected in more than 20 states.
While the US seems to be heading in the right direction on infection rates -- with 42 states reporting downward trends -- that progress could be erased if variants take hold, Wen said. Preventing that will mean extra vigilance.
"If there is something more contagious among us, if we thought that going to the grocery store before was relatively safe, there's actually a higher likelihood of contracting coronavirus through those every day activities," she said.
"Wearing an even better mask, reducing the number of times that we have to go out shopping, or in indoor crowded settings, all of that will be helpful," Wen added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Monday wearing two masks is likely more effective in stopping the spread of the virus.
"If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," he said.