Covid variant cases surge in Florida in aftermath of spring break

Data came to light after judge ordered its release by state health department

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Sunday 09 May 2021 15:53
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Variant cases of Covid-19 have surged in Florida since spring break vacationers flocked to the state.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that more than 11,000 infections involving variants of the coronavirus have been reported statewide based on data from the Florida Department of Health.

While the health department does not publish variant cases, data shared with local ABC affiliate WFTV shows 753 variant cases from just three strains on 14 March.

This increased to 5,177 on 15 April, and 9,248 on 27 April, ABC News reports. By 5 May, the number was up to more than 11,800 according to the Sentinel.

According to the paper’s reporting, 243 people have been hospitalised with variants and 67 people have died.

As only less than one per cent of cases are studied for mutations, they are assumed to be circulating in the wider population at a much great rate.

Florida now has more variant cases than any other state, and the timing of the surge tracks with when college students and other pandemic-weary Americans travelled to the state’s beaches and theme parks for a break.

The data came to light after The Orlando Sentinel sued the state’s department of health for a breakdown of variant cases.

A judge ruled that the data was vital “to understand how the virus continues to spread and affect Floridians”.

The most prevalent variant in the state is the B.1.1.7, which emerged in the UK in December. There are also reports of both the South African and Brazilian variants in the state.

While overall cases of coronavirus in the state are trending down, having dipped below a five per cent positivity rate, medical officials stress the importance of getting vaccinated. They are especially worried about variants spreading in denser urban areas.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 2.26 reported cases of Covid-19 in the state, and 35,699 officially recorded deaths.

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