This State Has the Most COVID-19 Variant Cases and the Number is Exploding

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

One state has more COVID variant cases than any other and the number is expanding rapidly.

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Tasnim News Agency

Studies estimate that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. is more than 900,000 while the death count worldwide is almost 7 million. While the rates of new cases have begun to decrease due to social distancing measures and the vaccine, the U.S. has still averaged between 50,000 and 70,000 new cases per day since the beginning of March 2021.

Although it’s encouraging that the numbers of new cases are dropping, there are still many areas of the country where there is vaccination hesitancy or social distancing wasn’t followed as carefully as it should have been where rates aren’t decreasing as fast as health officials believe they should. Yet health experts warn people not to become too lax too quickly.

“There was a fourth surge, whether it’s already receding isn't yet knowable. It didn’t feel so bad because it was so much smaller than the third. It has been a bit larger than the second, and may not be over yet,” Thomas Frieden, a former director of the CDC said.

So while perhaps many might still find this to be a very positive sign, health officials are concerned about people backing off precautionary measures too soon. This is because the longer the virus remains in the population the more likely it will mutate or form variants and some of these viral variants may spread more easily or lead to more severe illness. With increasing numbers of variants, there is also a greater likelihood that one may develop that is resistant to the effects of the vaccine.

So, the CDC is keeping a careful watch on variants, the way they are being spread and how many people who are fully vaccinated contract one of these variants. They also have been tracking which states have the highest rates of variants, especially those that are the most virulent and lead to serious symptoms.

At least one variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, now accounts for most of the new cases in the U.S. It’s possible this variant also could be more deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently tracks three variants for the public.

There are a number of variants that have emerged that the CDC doesn’t report to the public, it does track three. The first of these is the B.1.1.7. It has 62,745 cases reported across all 50 states. There are 1,359 cases reported of the B.1.351 variant across 35 states, and 1,491 reported cases of the P.1 variant across 30 states.

Florida is the state with the greatest number of COVID-19 variant cases in the country. What was worrisome in mid-March with 753 variant cases reported, downright alarming following spring break, with over 10,000 reported the beginning of May. The number reported more than doubled in the last two weeks alone with state health officials reporting more than 11,800 cases of COVID-19 variants last Wednesday.The most common variant in the state is the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the U.K. Florida has reported almost 10,000 cases of B.1.1.7 statewide.

The jump and rate of increase indicates that the spread of coronavirus variants is accelerating. As only 1 percent of cases in Florida are genetically typed, there is fear that the actual number of variant cases there is considerably higher than what has been reported. The upsurge in cases falls in line with mid-March to April spring break celebrations, when college students and vacationers flood the sunshine state.

As of Wed. variants of the COVID virus have resulted in the deaths of 62 people, which is twice the number reported just 2 weeks before. Additionally, 222 Florida residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 variants. Only a small fraction of people diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant had recently traveled, suggesting variants are spreading within the state as a result of contagion there instead of it being brought in from other places.

Prior to new numbers being reported on Wed. state health officials released a report last Monday, only hours after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement that he was suspending all COVID-19 restrictions effective immediately. This executive order takes the place of any local restrictions, which may make it impossible for cities and counties to respond effectively to outbreaks of contagious strains in their communities. This makes the governor’s behavior quite curious, as he either knew about the increase in variants in the state or had failed to ask for a report prior to lifting all restrictions.

According to Dr. Jason L. Salemi, an epidemiologist and associate professor at USF’s College of Public Health, the state’s openness with regard to tourism could be contributing to the high rates of variants in the state. While the majority of Floridians who contract a variant may not be traveling, others who could be infected with one of the variants could be coming into the state. With the states theme parks and other state tourist destinations now reopened people continue to arrive from all over the country.

“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.”

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