FYI: New, potentially more lethal COVID strain has spread to 22 states; FL now has 50 cases of the variant

By: - January 22, 2021 7:52 pm

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Meanwhile, new COVID mutations called variants are now spreading across the U.S., including the Delta variant. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Florida now has 50 cases of the more transmissible COVID-19 strain first identified in the United Kingdom — a variant called B.1.1.7 that appears to be  more lethal than originally thought, according to accounts coming from London.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and the Florida Department of Health still haven’t been providing information to the public about the troubling new strain. DeSantis is focusing almost solely on vaccinations and vaccine distribution.

Earlier this week, Florida was leading the nation in the number of variant cases, but it is now second to California, which jumped to 72 cases on Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Overall, the CDC on Friday reported 195 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant, in 22 states. That compares to 144 cases and 20 states on Wednesday, earlier this week. The CDC earlier warned that the new more, transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the dominant strain by March.

Florida’s variant cases increased from 46 to 50 on Friday, while California’s went from 40 to 72. New York’s cases increased from 17 to 22 between Wednesday and Friday.

(The cases identified are based on a sampling of specimens and do not represent the total number of B.1.1.7 cases across the nation, according to the CDC.)

The Washington Post and other media outlets reported Friday that B.1.1.7 appears to be even more troubling. Here is what the Post reported:

“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that the variant of the novel coronavirus first detected in England — and spreading around the world, including in the United States — ‘may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.’

“The new strain was already known to be more infectious than the original virus. Studies have suggested it is 30 to 70 percent more transmissible.

At a news briefing Friday at 10 Downing Street, Johnson and his advisers gave the first indication that the strain also might be more deadly.

“England’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, offered an example. He said that among 1,000 men in England age 60 or older who get infected, the original virus would kill 10. The new variant, he said, would kill 13 or 14. That would represent a 30 percent rise in mortality, though it is important to note that absolute risk of death remains low.”

In Florida, state health officials tweeted the first variant case on Dec. 31, 2020 — a man in his 20s in Martin County, north of Palm Beach County. On Jan. 2, state lawmakers and health officials had a news conference about the Martin County case.

But since then, officials have been mum. Residents don’t even know which counties have the variant cases.

Here are the variant cases across the country as of Friday, from the CDC:

California, 72 cases.

Florida, 50

New York, 22

Colorado, 6

Georgia, 6

Minnesota, 5

Connecticut, 4

Indiana, 4

Maryland, 4

Michigan, 3

Texas, 3

Massachusetts, 2

New Jersey, 2

New Mexico, 2

Pennsylvania, 2

Tennessee, 2

Illinois, 1

Louisiana, 1

Oregon, 1

Utah, 1

Wisconsin, 1

Wyoming, 1

Here’s a CDC map showing variant cases in each state.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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