The White House COVID-19 task force has warned of a new US variant of the virus that may be up to 50 percent more transmissible.
According to a report sent out to various states on January 3 and obtained by NBC, the newly-evolved variant is already spreading through communities, joining the highly transmissible UK variant that is causing havoc in many states.
COVID-19 cases in the United States have jumped to more than 21 million, with the death toll exceeding 357,000, the latest spike proving even more deadly with daily deaths hitting 4033.
The report suggesting the severity of the latest wave could be down to the new variant.
"This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities, and may be 50 percent more transmissible," the report says.
The task force adds that "aggressive mitigation" such as wearing well-fitting face masks and strict social distancing must be enacted to match a "much more aggressive virus".
They also warned of the need to quickly vaccinate those vulnerable to COVID-19 requesting the jabs be "put in arms now".
"Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease. Active and aggressive immunisation in the face of this surge would save lives."
The report didn't outline the amount of time the strain has been circulating, a spokesperson from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention telling NBC there's a high possibility "many variants" are evolving at one time.