ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Two people visiting Orange County from other parts of Florida have tested positive for the more contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19, according to Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.
He said the two recent cases, one of which was detected on Thursday, are not necessarily indications that the variant is spreading in the Orlando area.
“That is not to say that variant must be out there because it’s everywhere, but we don’t have any concrete evidence that it is in county residents at this point. We have not detected it. It doesn’t mean that it’s not there,” Pino said.
The two patients were from Broward and Seminole counties but it’s unknown if they were tourists or why they were in Orange County when they tested positive. It’s also unknown if they’d recently traveled overseas or been in contact with someone who had.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no evidence to suggest the U.K. variant, which was first detected in September 2020, is more deadly or that it responds any differently to the available vaccines.
In fact, Pino said the best defense against any variant of the virus is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly possible.
“The pharmaceutical companies are analyzing and the evidence suggests that vaccines continue to be effective, as it is right now, although now only we have now the UK variants, we also have the South Africa and then Brazil and who knows what else could pop,” Pino said. “So anyone who has access to the vaccine that has the opportunity should get vaccinated. The concern is that it could continue to mutate and some of the mutations could bring resistance and that’s always a concern.”
While the South Africa variant was detected for the first time in the U.S. on Thursday, it has not been detected in Florida and the Brazil variant isn’t in America at all.
Pino said overall, even as the county surpassed a cumulative total of 100,000 infections since March, the numbers seem to be improving.
“We have seen a decline in hospitalization, ICU bed use, ER visits and individuals on ventilators and so, the data is starting to show signs of recovery. It is important, more than ever, not to let your guard down, not even because we have the vaccine,” Pino said.