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New plan released on tracking COVID-19 variant

Testing for the variant takes longer than just testing for COVID-19

Experts fear a new variant could propel the number of coronavirus cases in Florida. The amount of COVID-19 cases in Florida has decreased this past month.

Florida has 416 cases of the B 1.1.7 variant first discovered in the U.K., according to the CDC.

Infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist for UF Health Dr. Nicole Lovine said the state needs to increase the number of tests it screens for variants.

“We are not screening enough of the available samples, that’s for sure,” Lovine said. “If you were to find that there were more variants occurring in a particular area, that’s where you would focus additional efforts.”

The White House announced on Wednesday an additional $200 million dollars in funding for screening variants of the virus. Federal officials said that their goal is to increase to 25,000 screenings a week. The Biden administration also said that it expects that funding to drastically increase once the American Rescue Plan is passed.

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Lovine also said the screenings for variants are more costly and take longer than a typical COVID-19 test because the laboratory breaks down the entire genetic sequencing of the virus. She also said that vaccines will likely need to be modified as time goes on to provide effective immunity.

She also predicts screening for variants will be long-term.

“Because not everybody will get vaccinated. Even if you have a dose for everybody, there are people that will just never get vaccinated,” Lovine.

She also said if the country stopped screening for variants, we wouldn’t be able to discover if a more deadly version of the virus mutates and if vaccines need to be modified.

During the latest press briefing on Monday, Orange County health officials said 12 cases of the UK variant have been detected.


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