New COVID-19 Variant Found in Florida as U.S. Cases Top 20 Million
Florida became the United State's third state to report the more contagious COVID-19 variant that was first found in the United Kingdom.
NBC Miami reported that the first suspected case of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 in Florida was a man in his 20s who lives in Martin County.
The Florida Department of Health on Thursday said he has no recent history of travel.
The state's reporting of the new COVID-19 variant came as the U.S. surpassed 20 million cases on Friday. Reuters data showed that it only took 25 days to go from 15 million to 20 million.
The first U.S. case of the new COVID-19 strain was reported in Colorado on a man in his 20s with no recent travel history.
The variant was found next in California. It was detected in a 30-year-old man, also with no history of travel. Experts say other states will soon follow, reported The Washington Post.
Florida Health Officials Working with CDC
Florida health officials said they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its investigation.
Florida has evidence of the first identified case of the UK COVID-19 variant in Martin County. The individual is a male in his 20s with no history of travel. The Department is working with the CDC on this investigation. We encourage all to continue practicing COVID-19 mitigation.— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) January 1, 2021
Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi said the lab that ran the test "noticed a difference in the strain," so they ran more tests, confirming the new strain data.
"We encourage all to continue practicing Covid-19 mitigation. At this time, experts anticipate little to no impact on the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine," the health department of Florida tweeted.
New York Times noted that the variant, also known as B.1.1.7., has not been known to cause more severe COVID-19 but was more contagious than other virus mutations.
Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University epidemiologist, told NBC Miami that the new strain was 70 percent more contagious than the original strain.
But even though it has been seen as less severe, it could still lead to more hospitalizations and deaths from the virus because of bringing up the case count, continue affecting the already frail health care system in the country.
COVID-19 cases are expected to rise from holiday gatherings. Experts continue to encourage mitigation efforts such as mask-wearing and physical distancing as the virus still has the same means of transmission even though it is a strain.
Some 175,000 Get COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida
Over the past week, Florida has recorded an average of over 10,200 cases of COVID-19 per day, data from the New York Times showed.
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said over 175,000 people in the state had been given a shot against the virus. While the numbers are promising, it's way below the government's promise at the start of the Operation Warp Speed vaccination effort.
More than three million people across the U.S. have been vaccinated as of Thursday, only about a seventh of what was promised by the government for the end of 2020.
Covid Vaccine Roll Facing Logistical Delays
Authorities said there had been a lag in reporting that could have affected the official tally and resulted in an undercount. However, the vaccine campaign is still facing various logistical delays.
Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the government's Operation Warp Speed, assured that officials would continue to "make adjustments" to bump up vaccinations as the months roll forward.
Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for an increase in vaccinations, saying there was a need for a sense of urgency on the matter.
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