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First case of COVID-19 variant in Florida found in Martin County

Two previous infections were reported earlier this week in U.S.
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Posted at 8:33 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-01 16:24:47-05

MARTIN COUNTY — The Florida Department of Health on Thursday night reported it has evidence of the first identified case of the more contagious United Kingdom COVID-19 variant of a man in Martin County, bringing the total of confirmed and suspected cases in the United States to seven.

The individual is in his 20s with no history of travel, according to the department.

In a Twitter post, the agency said the Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" on this investigation. We encourage all to continue practicing COVID-19 mitigation."

In another tweet, "at this time, experts anticipate little to no impact on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine."

Earlier Thursday, the health agency reported a record for increase of cases in one day, 17,192, surpassing the mark of 15,300 in July. Also, 127 more deaths were reported.

The total number of cases is 1,323,315 and residents' deaths are 21,673, both fourth in the nation.

Martin County has 7,839 cases, including an increase of 79 Thursday, and 210 deaths.

"I asked how they were able to pick up the variant. To what I understand is that the lab that ran the test noted a difference in the strain and ran additional testing and that's how they were able to pick up that," County Commissioner Ed Ciampi told WPTV NewsChannel 5 report Todd Wilson.

"We are in touch with the [state] Surgeon General's office of course as well as the local health department and trying to understand the strain. To be honest with you, it's not that unheard of to have a virus go through a mutation," State Rep. Toby Overdorf said.

Officials said they are concerned about the new strain surfacing at the same time a post-holiday spike could occur.

"I would not be surprised if there's a lot more cases in the next several days, and the numbers increase," Dr. Moti Ramgopal, infectious disease physician.

Ramgopal said the new strain could spread even faster.

"It shows how complex this virus is and now this new strain adds that extra layer of complexity and it can infect a lot more people," Ramgopal said.

Overdorf said government leaders are watching it closely and the vaccine should still work against the new strain.

"It certainly is concerning. However, I am always requesting that folks adhere to social distancing guidelines," Overdorf said.

1st Case Found In Colorado

The first two cases of the variant were reported in the United States this week.

On Tuesday, the first reported U.S. case was discovered in Colorado. It was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver in Elbert County and has no travel history, state health officials said. On Wednesday another suspected case was identified.

Both involve National Guard members working at the Good Samaritan Society assisted living facility in Simla, about 45 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, health officials said. Both are not hospitalized.

On Wednesday, a San Diego man with no travel outside the county tested positive for the COVID-19 variant and is not hospitalized.

Scientists believe the variant is more contagious than previously identified strains. The vaccines being given are thought to be effective against the variant, Colorado health officials said in a news release.

Officials from the CDC said Wednesday that the new strain of COVID-19 now circulating in the U.S. could further stress hospitals that are already overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

The British variant was first detected in September, according to the World Health Organization.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom set a record with 55,892 cases. In addition, the kingdom has reported 964 deaths, behind the record 1,166 April 21 and is sixth in the world with 73,512.