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Doctors say pandemic safety measures still needed to win race against coronavirus variants

MIAMI – Doctors fear more people will die of COVID-19 if the coronavirus continues to spread with the help of irresponsible people who are socializing and not using face masks in public.

The United Kingdom coronavirus variant, which researchers have said is deadlier than other strains, is becoming more common and spreading more easily, doctors said.

Dr. Bindu Mayi, of Nova Southeastern University, said on Monday that it hasn’t been difficult for the variant to pull ahead, so it’s not a good time for anyone to let down their guard.

“All a virus wants to do is find a body, start replicating, make more copies of itself,” Mayi said. “Those variants are going to happen as a result of increased replication ... increased bodies that it is inhabiting.”

With more than 2,250 cases, Florida remains the state in the country with the most recorded cases of the UK variant, also known as B117, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During a news conference on Monday, the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, made a plea on the pandemic restrictions.

“Just please, hold on a little while longer,” Walensky said. “I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet, and so I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.”

There was a 10% increase in cases in the U.S. compared to the previous week. Walensky said this worried her because that is what happened when the variants caused a new wave of COVID-19 deaths in Europe.

“Right now, I am scared,” Walensky said, adding that the data on last week’s increase gave her a feeling of “impending doom.”

President Joe Biden also held a news conference on Monday asking state and local governments to implement measures to enforce the CDC’s recommendations on the use of face masks and social distancing.

“I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate,” Biden said. “Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.”

According to John Hopkins University, COVID-19 has killed 549,664 of the more than 30 million people who have been infected in the U.S. In Florida, there have been more than 2 million coronavirus infections, and 33,891 have died of COVID-19, including 33,247 residents and 644 non-residents, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Related story: Florida reports 3,374 new COVID-19 cases and 69 resident deaths Monday

Gov. Ron DeSantis has stood against face mask mandates and ordered the fines related to pandemic restrictions in Florida nulled. On Monday, DeSantis said the CDC director implied the coronavirus vaccine campaign was failing.

“When you start talking about ‘Doom’ what you are saying is the vaccines must not work,” DeSantis said. “This thing has followed a very consistent seasonal pattern, so right now you see a little bit more increase in some of the northern parts of the country.”

Dr. Aileen Marty, of Florida International University, said the variants have the ability to worsen the situation, but changes in human behavior and the COVID-19 vaccine campaign can prevent that from happening.

“There is no question that the vaccines are helpful. However, we are in a race, and that race is between us getting everyone up to a level of protection versus the virus making more variants of concern that can overwhelm people’s protections,” Marty said.

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About the Authors:

Layron Livingston made the move from Ohio's Miami Valley to Miami, Florida, to join the Local 10 News team.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.