Experts warn of dangers as new, contagious strains of COVID-19 arrive in South Florida

Researchers at University of Miami studying COVID-19 in patients at Jackson Memorial

MIAMI – Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic and the virus is mutating into several additional contagious strains.

A team of researchers is now focusing on those new variants to slow the spread in South Florida.

There are 19 Florida counties that have positive cases of the more contagious UK strain of COVID-19, the highest concentration of which can be found in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Researchers at the University of Miami are investigating which mutated versions of COVID-19 are in South Florida by looking at the virus present in COVID-19 patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

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FIU infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty said the more contagious UK strain is potentially more dangerous.

“Every single variant has its own quirks and problems,” said Marty. “Hard science data, as well as epidemiological data, suggesting that the UK variant is not just more contagious but also perhaps more severe.”

How well vaccines end up shielding against the UK strain and other mutations is also part of the research at UM.

Marty explained testing shows current vaccines do work against the UK variant but there is new concern about other mutations already in the United States that could infect people who have already had COVID-19 in the past.

“The South African variant and the Brazil variant already showing real problems for people who already had COVID,” said Marty. “Those people are not protected at all against South African variant nine out of ten times.”

About the Author:

Annaliese Garcia joined Local 10 News in January 2020. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism. She began her career at Univision. Before arriving at Local 10, she was with NBC2 (WBBH-TV) covering Southwest Florida. She's glad to be back in Miami!