FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Of the 92 confirmed cases of a more contagious COVID-19 variant in Florida, 60 of those cases are in South Florida, according to new data from the state’s health department.
That includes 28 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Broward County, 23 cases in Miami-Dade County and nine cases in Palm Beach County.
The only other states in the country with more than 20 confirmed variant cases are California (92) and New York (22).
However, the Florida Department of Health says that it is more actively searching for the variant than other states.
“Florida is a national leader in sequencing for mutations of the COVID-19 virus. In fact, as of January 19, the Florida Department of Health has sequenced 3,470 COVID-19 specimens to date and is sequencing 200 more samples per week,” the health department said in an email. “By leading in sequencing, the Department is actively looking for the variant in Florida, which is why more cases are being discovered in Florida.”
The B.1.1.7 variant is commonly referred to the U.K. strain, or British variant, as it was first located there.
Health experts have warned that that more contagious and possibly more deadly variant sweeping through Britain will probably become the dominant source of infection in the U.S. by March.
“Every single variant has its own quirks and problems,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases expert at Florida International University. “The hard science data, as well as epidemiological data, suggesting that the U.K. variant is not just more contagious but also perhaps more severe.”
In Florida, verified variant cases doubled from 46 last week to 92 this week.
Below is a list of B.1.1.7 variant cases confirmed in 19 counties in the state through Wednesday, according to the health department:
Brevard – 1
Broward – 28
Charlotte – 1
Collier – 1
Dade – 23
Escambia – 1
Hendry – 1
Hillsborough – 7
Lee – 2
Martin – 1
Osceola – 2
Palm Beach – 9
Pasco – 1
Pinellas – 4
Polk – 1
Seminole – 6
Sumter – 1
Suwannee – 1
Volusia – 1
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said that scientists are already preparing to adjust COVID-19 vaccines to fight the mutated versions.
He said there is “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against variants, but “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective” against the variants.
Another virus variant from South Africa was just detected in U.S. for the first time in South Carolina on Thursday.
Like Fauci, Marty said that while the Pfizer and Moderna shots do provide protection from the U.K. variant and to some degree the new South African strain, “they don’t work as well against the South African. So, for that reason, both Pfizer and Moderna are both working right now to add a little bit of extra code to that vaccine.”