Colombian COVID variant already spreading in South Florida

International travel to Miami makes us a gateway for new strains

10% of the COVID-19 cases being sequenced at a University of Miami pathology lab are from the Colombian strain. International travel has made Miami a hotspot for variants to arrive.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Colombian variant may sound like the next concern in the COVID-19 crisis, but in South Florida, it’s already here.

Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health, revealed that now 10% of COVID-positive patients whose results are being sequenced at the University of Miami’s pathology lab have a strain that originated out of Colombia.

“And here’s a real shocking thing that’s spreading in Colombia quite a bit,” Migoya told Local 10 News. “And they haven’t seen it anywhere else outside of Colombia. Well, guess what? In the last week, 10% of our patients had the Colombian variant. Why? Because of the travel between Colombia and Miami.”

That sequencing lab reports the following percentages of variant cases among COVID positives:

  • Delta 49%
  • Brazilian 26%
  • Colombian 10%

What’s colloquially being called the Colombian variant is officially the B.1.621 variant. It has not yet been given a Greek name by the World Health Organization (like the Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma).

The Delta variant that’s spreading the fastest accounted for just 2% of the cases just two months ago.

The unvaccinated are hosting the mutating variants that are rapidly spreading in our community.

“The more people we leave unprotected from vaccines, the more opportunities there are for variants to emerge,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist.

[ALSO SEE: South Florida hospitals take dire steps as COVID-19 trends worsen]

Local 10 News spoke to several travelers Monday at Miami International Airport. Most seemed unconcerned.

“We are not afraid of it,” said Johanna Castillo, who arrived from Colombia. “We are already vaccinated.”

For information on where COVID-19 vaccines are available in South Florida, click here.


Last week, doctors from South Florida's busiest hospitals literally pleaded for the unvaccinated to change their minds and get a shot.

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."