'More very bad news'
Now scientists at the CDC are speaking with UK health officials to learn more about data suggesting the same variant could be more deadly.
A UK report released Friday states there is "a realistic possibility" that the new variant has a higher death rate than other variants.
"The data is mounting -- and some of it I can't share -- that clearly supports that B.1.1.7 is causing more severe illness and increased death," infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said. "Already we know this variant has increased transmission, and so this is more very bad news."
But National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Saturday it's still too soon to tell if the variant is more deadly, telling MSNBC, "this is very preliminary data."
"It looks as if, if you look at 1,000 people who got infected with Covid-19, generally about 1%, 10 of them, would die of it. Maybe with this virus, it would be 13 instead of 10," Collins said. "That's a small difference."
He added that the numbers could possibly also be a "consequence of the fact that the UK health system is really overwhelmed."
"That has an effect also on mortality," Collins added.
The good news? Studies so far suggest vaccines will also protect against the variant and that the same measures that can help prevent infections -- including mask wearing, social distancing and regular hand washing -- continue to be key in the effort to curb the spread.