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 more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 variants – the most in the nation – with all three strains considered more contagious, potentially overwhelming health care systems across the nation.
Health officials are not only tracking the Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom strains but have also identified newly detected variants of concern circulating in the United States. Those include variants detected from California.
The coronaviruses evolve through mutation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Sunday, the CDC reported 6,390 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 49 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Florida is leading in U.S. cases of the so-called B.1.1.7 strain, with 1,040 cases caused by the U.K. variant.
Other states with high case numbers of the United Kingdom strain are Michigan, 616; California, 471; Texas, 414; Georgia, 351; Colorado, 335 and Minnesota, 317.
The South Africa strain, also known as B.1.351, is now in 27 jurisdictions – 26 states and Washington D.C. And the Brazil strain, known as P.1, has been detected in 18 states.
Meanwhile, federal health officials developed a U.S. “government interagency group” classifying additional coronavirus variants into three groups: variant of interest, variant of concern and variant of high consequence.
That group is tasked with studying those emerging variants to measure them against current vaccines used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. At issue is new, more transmissible COVID variants could potentially disrupt vaccine efforts, if vaccines don’t provide enough protection.
Of the five variants of concern, three are the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil strains. The CDC is also tracking two new variants including the B.1.427 and B.1.429, both first detected in California, and said to have a “moderate” reduction in vaccine effectiveness.
The CDC said on its website about variants in that classification group:
“A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”
So far, three variants have been classified as variants of interest, which the CDC said are more transmissible and could trigger a surge in cases. Those variants include the B.1.526 and B.1.525, which both were first detected in New York. And the third – P.2 – was first detected in Brazil.
Variants of high consequence cause a “significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness,” more severe disease and “increased hospitalization,” according to the CDC. So far, none of the emerging strains are classified under that category.
President Joe Biden announced a plan to have all adults in each state eligible for vaccines by May 1, while Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week he expects all Florida residents could be eligible for doses some time in April.
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