ORLANDO, Fla. – A week after the Florida Department of Health identified the first case of the U.K. COVID-19 variant in the state, there are now at least 22 cases of the variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, had most widely been detected in the UK, which is seeing a surge in hospitalizations as the variant is putting a strain on the nation’s hospitals. UK health officials say the strain is 50% to 70% more contagious and deaths have increased there by 21%, according to The Associated Press.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a third national lockdown that started Tuesday and requires everyone in England to stay at home for at least the next six weeks except for exercise, medical appointments, essential shopping and a few other limited exceptions.
According to a database and map by the CDC showing all known U.S. COVID-19 cases caused by different strains of the novel coronavirus, there are 22 confirmed cases in Florida among the 52 found throughout the U.S. as of Thursday.
At the end of December, the CDC issued guidance on the U.K. variant, saying it was likely already in the U.S. but hadn’t been traced yet given the small fraction of U.S. infections that had been sequenced.
It’s likely the number of variants and cases will continue to grow, even as vaccine efforts are underway globally.
The new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus is already in the state.
Epidemiology Officer in Chief Dr. Nicole Iovine said researchers expected a mutation.
“Evidence suggests that it might be more easily transmitted from person to person. There is no evidence right now that it causes more diseases,” Iovine said.
While this new mutation has the power to infect more people Iovine believes current COVID-19 vaccines and testing will be effective in treating and identifying the variant.
“The testing currently that is done to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 isn’t specifically directed towards distinguishing this new variant from the usual COVID strain,” she said.
She said if you get a positive COVID-19 result you would not know if it is a new variant or not.
To better track variants of the coronavirus in the U.S., the CDC began receiving 10 samples from each state in January every other week for sequencing and further analysis.
For the full list of confirmed variants in the U.S., click or tap here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.