COVID-19 infections reach 1.5-million mark; more easily-spread ‘variant’ cases are rising in FL

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Meanwhile, new COVID mutations called variants are now spreading across the U.S., including the Delta variant. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,503,482 COVID-19 infections, with new cases rising since New Year’s Day and additional COVID cases that involve new variants that spread more easily.

A variant case emerged for the first time in Florida on New Year’s Eve — a young man in Martin County, north of Palm Beach County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has so far identified 72 variant cases, mostly in Florida, with 22 variant cases, and in California, with 32 of the cases. The CDC cases are based on a sampling of specimens and not the total number of variant cases that may be circulating across the nation.

In addition to Florida and California, the variants thus far have been found in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to the CDC.

The CDC describes these types of variants:

“In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant has emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.”

“In South Africa, another variant has emerged independently of the variant detected in the UK. This variant, originally detected in early October, shares some mutations with the variant detected in the UK. There have been cases caused by this variant outside of South Africa. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.”

“Another variant recently emerged in Nigeria. CDC also is monitoring this strain but, at this time, there is no evidence to indicate this variant is causing more severe illness or increased spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.”

Miami-Dade County now has 331,649 infections; Broward has 152,645, and Palm Beach, 93,295. But Orange (88,697), Hillsborough (88,217) and Duval (71,854) are not far behind.

The Florida health department also reported 23,227 resident deaths from COVID-19.

Florida ranks 3rd of all 50 states for the number of infections and 16th for the infection rate based on 100,000 people, according to a New York Times analysis. As to deaths, Florida ranks 4th of the 50 states, and 23rd for death rates.

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.