ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida has seen a big jump in the number of cases caused by coronavirus variants.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of the so-called U.K. variant have more than doubled to nearly 2,300 in Florida since last week.
The CDC also noted an increase of the Brazilian and South African variants in the state.
Overall cases in several states, including Florida, have been trending slightly higher.
“The variants are playing a part, but it is not completely the variants,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. “What we’re likely seeing is because of things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation methods that you’ve seen.”
Fauci said he thinks it’s too soon to relax mask-use and other rules put in place to keep the virus in check.
Fauci did add, however, that if the quick pace of vaccinations continues in the United States, the country should stay on track for a big improvement by the summer.
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Since the coronavirus was first discovered, new variants of the virus have been documented in the United States and around the world.
Here are the variants of COVID-19 currently circulating around the globe.
- The United Kingdom identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with a large number of mutations in the fall of 2020. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the U.K. reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the United States at the end of December 2020.
- In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7. Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant were reported in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
- In Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged and was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan in early January. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
The newly discovered variants seem to spread more easily and quickly, the CDC said. The easily transmitted viruses can lead to more cases of COVID-19 and add additional strain on the health care system.
Dr. Todd Husty, the medical director for Seminole County, said in January that while the variants discovered in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil are more transmissible, they aren’t putting people at greater risk.
“We don’t think that it’s making more serious illness, which is good,” he said. “Could that happen with other variants? Sure. It could. And that’s why we need to keep looking for variants.”