Omicron is believed to have landed in FL, Gov. DeSantis says

FL Department of Health confirms identifying ‘presumptive’ case

By: - December 7, 2021 1:53 pm

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Mutations of the virus have been spreading across the country. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Public health officials believe they have identified COVID omicron variant cases in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.

“They believe they have identified — I’m not sure where it is,” the governor said in response to a reporter’s question during a news conference in Oldsmar.

The Florida Department of Health later confirmed its identification of “a presumptive case of the omicron variant in Florida” through genomic sequencing and said contact tracing was underway “to identify possible exposures and advise on necessary isolation and quarantine protocols.”

In an email to the Phoenix, officials did not identify any geographic location.

However, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reported that two cases have been confirmed — one in Tampa, where someone who’d recently traveled overseas was experiencing mild symptoms per officials at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital; the other a presumptive case in St. Lucie County, per the state.

The Phoenix is attempting to confirm the report with the health department.

State health officials have been working with the CDC to detect the variant.

DeSantis implied he had expected the development and warned about overreacting.

“But, you know, I said this last week: Once you identify it a few places around the world, it is spread, OK? So, you’re gonna see it, and just because you haven’t identified it somewhere does not mean it’s not there,” DeSantis continued.

“The question is, when omicron — you started to see in the press about it and people were trying to whip things up, you saw the markets drop. And the question was, why did the markets drop? And it wasn’t because the markets were fearful of omicron. It was because the markets were fearful that governments would do destructive things in response to omicron.”

As of Tuesday, omicron had been detected in 19 states, according to a tally kept by The New York Times, but that count did not yet reflect any cases in Florida. The times identified cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Florida Department of Health noted this week that booster shots of COVID vaccines are available, as are anticlonal antibody treatments for people who become infected.

DeSantis promised not to change his own approach to COVID to accommodate for the new, reportedly more transmissible if perhaps less virulent, variant.

“In Florida, we won’t let them lock you down; we won’t let them restrict you; we’re not gonna let them impose mandates; we’re not gonna let them close the schools. We are going to protect your freedom to make your decisions.

“And I have no problem if somebody — if they’re scared of omicron and they want to lock down or they want to isolate, that is absolutely their decision in a free society. But you don’t impose Fauciism on the whole country or on the whole state. It’s wrong,” DeSantis said.

“There’s gonna be variants — that’s just the reality,” he continued.

“COVID does not just disappear. So, you can say, ‘Lock down,’ but until when? It’s not like you lock down and it will just go away. But this is something that you have to deal with.”

DeSantis took the opportunity to criticize venues that require servers to wear face masks but not diners.

“I think it’s like a two-tiered society: They’re trying to have a servant class that has to always do all this, but yet the other class, they can lecture you about wearing masks but then they don’t wear masks themselves. That’s wrong.”

Note: This story has updated to include confirmation by the Florida Department of Health and a news report that two cases have been confirmed.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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