Public health experts closely watch spread of COVID-19 variants in Florida

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Posted at 6:58 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 18:58:10-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Concern is growing over the spread of COVID-19 variants across the country and in Florida. The latest numbers from the CDC put Florida as the state overall with the most reported variant cases.

“Some of [the variants] can actually spread more efficiently than other coronavirus strains,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, an associate professor at the University of South Florida. “So this is bad. As you can imagine, they can actually reach more people and infect more people.”

A CDC map shows the number of confirmed cases caused by variants in every state. As of Wednesday, Florida shows 343 confirmed variant cases, all of which are the UK strain. The map also tracks strains from South Africa and Brazil. Florida's variant cases make up about 36 percent of all reported variant cases in the U.S.


ABC Action News asked Dr. Roberts about the UK variant.

“Generally over the time of the last year or so, we've been tracking how quickly coronavirus is actually multiplying. And then suddenly, this variant turns up that just really took over explosively,” said Roberts. “Some studies have shown that even in as little as a week and a half the total case numbers in this thing can double. And so that’s really, really alarming. We saw that all over the UK, and unfortunately, how they started to get that under control was really strict shutdowns, which is not the conversation we want to have again.”

Roberts says the other concern is some variants have shown some resistance to vaccines, but she explains it appears the COVID vaccines currently in use are effective against the UK strain.

The CDC says scientists are working to learn more about how easily variants spread, whether they could cause more severe illness and whether vaccines will protect people against them.

Dr. Roberts says people should continue with COVID-19 safety measures to help protect themselves and others.

“Coronavirus is definitely still out there,” said Roberts. “It’s there, so we do need to continue to take care.”