New COVID-19 variant found in Florida, marking nation’s 3rd confirmed case

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) –  A case of the new coronavirus strain that spread quickly in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in Florida.

The Florida Department of Health announced on Twitter Thursday that the individual is a man in his 20s who is currently in isolation in Martin County. The department noted the man has no travel history. 

The state said it is working with the CDC on the investigation into the case.

The news comes after Colorado health officials earlier this week announced the first person in the U.S. known to be infected with the new and – apparently more contagious – variant. That individual was identified as a Colorado National Guardsman who had been sent to help out at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak. Health officials said Wednesday a second Guard member may have it too.

California officials also confirmed later Wednesday that a San Diego County man had California’s first confirmed case of the new variant.

The cases have triggered a host of questions about how the mutant version circulating in England arrived in the U.S. and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the United States.

“The virus is becoming more fit, and we’re like a deer in the headlights,” warned Dr. Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute.

He noted that the U.S. does far less genetic sequencing of virus samples to discover variants than other developed nations do, and thus was probably slow to detect this new mutation.

The case in Florida was announced the same day the state reported its largest single-day jump in new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Florida has more than 1.3 million total confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 21,500 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Crowds of people celebrated New Year’s Eve in downtown Tampa by gathering in large crowds, most people either not wearing or being lax about wearing masks in public. It’s easy to see why health officials are concerned to now have a strain of the virus that spreads even quicker.

“I mean obviously, we don’t wanna see a virus that has a greater capability of spreading. The other thing that is important and a favorable thing, it does not seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by vaccines that are currently being used,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said.

The best way to fight this new strain to wash your hands, wear masks and practice social distancing.

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