With the Florida Department of Health largely mum on information about cases of the United Kingdom COVID-19 strain, Gov. Ron DeSantis has begun to answer some questions about the variant spreading across the United States. Florida has the largest number of cases of this strain.
Sunday morning on Fox News, DeSantis was asked a question about concerns related to what’s called the B.1.1.7 variant. He had earlier answered a question for the first time, Feb. 10, at a news conference.
On the Fox show Sunday, DeSantis said, “First of all, we obviously look at all the data that comes in, but this strain is in blue states,” DeSantis said in the interview.
In fact, Republican president Donald Trump won Florida and captured 29 electoral votes in November, which would signal Florida is a more of a red state. And Florida has more United Kingdom variant cases than any other state.
DeSantis continued, “And they don’t talk about doing anything with blue states. We do a lot of analysis and genetic analysis on strains, so we find more than probably some other states do.”
In Florida, 379 cases of the variant have been reported as of Sunday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than any other state in the nation.
The agency reported a total of 1,173 cases of that strain nationwide. Scientists say the variant is more transmissible and potentially more lethal.
DeSantis’ priority is to administer vaccines to seniors in the state to create a “protective shield for our vulnerable population,” he said.
“At the end of the day, that’s really what matters.”
As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, other states with large numbers of B.1.1.7 cases are in California (186); Colorado (67); Michigan (61); New York (59); Texas (49); Georgia, (45).
The CDC is tracking two other new strains that have emerged in the United States – the South Africa and Brazil variants – but thus far those mutations have not been detected in Florida.
DeSantis said on the Fox show that hospitalizations and cases are down in Florida. He went on to slam President Joe Biden about reports that his administration could be considering domestic travel restrictions, given COVID mutations. DeSantis, on Fox, called Biden a “lockdowner.”
“So you have seen a decline in COVID in Florida…but you’ve seen a decline all over the country. It would be very odd to do a draconian travel restriction, which has no basis in the Constitution at a time when all these indicators are going down,” DeSantis said.
“There’s no basis in reality to do this except to punish a state that is doing it better than what his experts have recommended.”
However, it was DeSantis who earlier last year was serious about cracking down on people who fled to Florida from out-of-state COVID-19 hot spots last spring. It was enough to threaten them with arrest.
The state health department has not responded fully to multiple requests for updated information about which counties have had United Kingdom variant cases. The agency also has yet to provide information on the gender and ages or age ranges of the people who were infected by this particular variant.