(NBC News) - Health experts are warning highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are taking hold in the United States, even as current cases are declining.
"We're in the eye of the hurricane right now and this is the time that we have to get ready for that next big piece," says Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine.
A third case of the South African strain was confirmed over the weekend in Maryland, and at least 460 cases of the potentially more deadly U.K. strain have been reported across more than 30 states.
Experts say vaccinations and continued mask-wearing and social distancing are key to stopping the spread.
Meanwhile, some health experts urging the U.S. to stop reserving second doses of vaccine and prioritize first shots for as many Americans as possible.
"If we get a number of first doses in people, particularly 65 years of age and older, we can really do a lot to reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in this next big surge," says Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
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