COVID-19 variants taking over in Florida

Florida has the most COVID-19 variant cases in the nation, according to the CDC. These cases are emerging as some use our state as their getaway from the cold and tight pandemic restictions.

One expert says we can expect some protection from the variants thanks to the multiple COVID-19 vaccines that are available. But, that may not protect us completely against the virus.

Joseph Pepe is a spokesperson Florida Department of Health Officer for Charlotte County.

“Most counties in our area had their first cases around this time,” Pepe said.

Coronavirus cases were just starting to spread in Southwest Florida during spring break 2020. This year, Charlotte County Health Officer Joseph Pepe says we’re in a better spot to stop the spread.

“We’ve had a lot of time to learn,” said Pepe.

But, so has the virus.

Dr. Stephen Kissler works in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the Harvard School of Public Health. “We have the spread of the variants. In particular, the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the UK, has been spreading quite a bit,” Dr. Kissler said.

“And it’s making up a large proportion of cases in a couple of states, including Florida,” said Kissler.

Research finds the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant is more transmissible and deadly. Florida has more cases than anywhere else in the country, with 690.

Harvard Immunology and Infectious Disease expert Dr. Kissler has concerns about the rising case numbers.

“We’re sort of lagged a couple of weeks behind many of the countries in Europe that are starting to see rises in cases right now. And so, I think that we should take that as a very serious warning that that can and very well might happen here as well,” said Kissler.

An influx of spring breakers might not help matters either. But the experts say, we have to balance the variants with vaccines.

“On the one hand, we could see an increased amount of spread. But with the increase in vaccination, that will help sort of keep things at bay a little bit,” Dr. Kissler said.

“The big push right now – is to suppress COVID as much as we can to prevent a variant from emerging that’s outside the protection of the vaccines,” said Pepe.

Right now, we have one case of the South African variant in Florida and five cases of the Brazilian variant in Florida.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Drew Hill
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