An important update on our story about a troubling new strain of COVID; the public needs to know

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. New strains are now rising, especially in Florida. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Following a Phoenix story about why Florida state officials haven’t been alerting the public, here’s an update from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

A new more, transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the dominant strain by March, triggering a surge in cases across the country, the CDC warned Friday. The variant, emerging from the United Kingdom, is called B.1.1.7 and is already moving rapidly in many countries as well as in 15 states in the United States.

As of Saturday, the CDC reported 89 U.S. cases of the new variant, with 22 in Florida. (The cases identified are based on a sampling of specimens and do not represent the total number of B.1.1.7 cases across the nation.)

The CDC reported info that people should know about:

“A higher rate of transmission will lead to more cases, increasing the number of persons overall who need clinical care, exacerbating the burden on an already strained health care system, and resulting in more deaths….

“The increased transmissibility of this variant requires an even more rigorous combined implementation of vaccination and mitigation measures (e.g., distancing, masking, and hand hygiene) to control the spread…These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread of the B.1.1.7 variant…Increased transmissibility also means that higher than anticipated vaccination coverage must be attained to achieve the same level of disease control to protect the public compared with less transmissible variants.”

That means Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is focused on vaccines, and state health officials, should be considering measures to control the new variant in Florida, which has the 2nd highest variant cases in the country. Measures could include a statewide mask mandate, which DeSantis has been against.

But as of Saturday afternoon, neither the governor nor state health officials have alerted the public about this variant for the last two weeks. No press conferences. No news releases.  (The state health department on Dec. 31, 2020 did tweet about the first variant case in Martin County.)

The 15 states with variants, in order of cases, are: California, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin.