ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County on Monday reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 variants, including two of the closely watched B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa.
What You Need To Know
Orange County reports 37 new cases of COVID variants, including 2 of B.1.351 variant
The county says it now tracks 142 cases, all but 14 of them the variant first identified in U.K.
Florida continues to amass by far the highest number of COVID-19 variant cases in country
That brought Orange County’s total variant cases to 142, up from 105 on Thursday and all but 14 of them the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom. Orange County also reports two cases of the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil, and 10 cases of two variants first identified in California.
Epidemiologist Alvina Chu of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said studies have shown the B.1.351 variant to be “up to 50% more transmissible and also potentially with increased severity of illness” than the original virus. The B.1.1.7 variant also reportedly is 50% more transmissible.
“You always ask, ‘Should we be concerned?’” Chu told reporters Monday at an Orange County coronavirus news briefing. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t concerned. But concern isn’t panic, and so as we get the vaccines rolled out to as many people as possible, we hope that people continue to do the pandemic precautions so that we can contain the spread of the outbreak.”
Chu noted that the Orange County variant cases range from July 2 through the end of March. Officials are identifying the cases now through increased national efforts and a process called genomic sequencing, she said. She also said vaccines remain “very effective against preventing severe illness and death.”
Florida continues to amass by far the highest number of COVID-19 variant cases in the country. The state’s cases on Monday stood at 3,191, up from 2,422 on Thursday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Sunshine State showed 24 cases of the B.1.351 variant, compared with 374 nationwide.