May 6, 2021 -- More than 10,000 COVID-19 variant cases have been reported in Florida, which is more than double the total from two weeks ago.
The jump indicates that the spread of coronavirus variants is accelerating, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Only 1% of the state’s COVID-19 cases undergo the genetic testing needed to identify variants, so the actual number is likely higher.
“The real problem is that everyone’s acting like the pandemic is over,” Aileen Marty, MD, a professor of infectious diseases and outbreak response at Florida International University, told the newspaper.
“If we get lackadaisical about it … these variants can overcome some of the immunity that we’ve developed,” she said. “We may find ourselves in a very bad situation again.”
As of May 1, Miami-Dade County led the state with 2,279 variant cases, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, followed by Broward County with 1,950 variant cases.
The most common variant is the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the U.K. Florida has reported more than 9,050 B.1.1.7 cases statewide.
The variant cases have led to the death of 62 people, the newspaper reported, which is twice the number reported 2 weeks ago. In addition, 222 Florida residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 variants. Overall, only a small fraction of people diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant had recently traveled, which typically occurred in the U.S.
State health officials released the numbers on Monday, just hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he was immediately suspending all COVID-19 restrictions, the newspaper reported. The executive order will soon supersede local restrictions, which means cities and counties may not be able to respond to outbreaks of contagious strains in their communities.
“I think that, to the majority of people, there are just too many numbers and letters [for the variants] to keep up with and to understand where the risk actually is right now,” Marty said. “The most important thing to know is that we need to get more people vaccinated.”
The Florida Department of Health data was released as part of a legal settlement with the Orlando Sentinel. The newspaper sued in mid-March to obtain county-level data, particularly about COVID-19 variants, after numerous requests for information during the previous two months. The lawsuit claimed that the data is vital to “understand how the virus continues to spread and affect Floridians.”