FL leads the country with 343 cases of the more contagious COVID strain; state officials slow to provide info

By: - February 9, 2021 8:41 pm

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. The virus is now creating mutations that are spreading in the United States and elsewhere. Credit: National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Florida now has 343 cases of the mutation that emerged from the United Kingdom, far more than any other state, and the number of cases nationwide are nearing 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The so-called B.1.1.7 variant has spread to 34 states, totaling 932 cases nationwide, the CDC reported Tuesday.

Cases are expected to continue to climb, as federal health officials earlier warned of the new COVID-19 variant potentially becoming the dominant strain by March. Vaccines have become increasingly important as the mutations continue.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is focused solely on vaccines — and Florida Department of Heath officials have remained slow to provide information about the variant that is more transmissible and potentially more lethal than the original virus.

The Florida Phoenix has asked for basic information, such as which counties have the variant, and characteristics of residents infected, such as gender and age or age range. But the department has thus far provided only partial information, and the public is generally in the dark.

Health officials say people should take measures, such as double masking, to avoid getting the virus. State officials can also pursue measures, such as a statewide mask mandate, though Gov. DeSantis has been against such a requirement.

California now has 156 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant; New York, 59, Colorado, 37, Georgia, 37, Texas, 35 and New Jersey, 31. You can look other states at the CDC here.

Meanwhile, the CDC also is tracking two other new variants that have come into the United States: B.1.351, from South Africa, and P.1, from Brazil, but neither are in Florida.

Keep in mind that the cases identified are based on a sampling of specimens and do not represent the total number of B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 lineage cases that may be circulating in the United States, according to the CDC.

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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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