More cases of a mutated strain of the coronavirus are spreading in Florida, and the state now has more cases of the variant than anywhere else in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials say 92 cases of the more contagious strain of COVID-19 have been detected in Florida. California is not far behind with 90 cases of the variant, according to a map published by the CDC Monday.
The B.1.1.7 variant emerged in Britain last September. The first reported case in Florida was announced by the state’s department of health on Dec. 31st.
Health officials say the new strain from the U.K. is up to 70% more contagious than what we’ve already seen.
The mutation changes the virus’ spike protein that allows it to more easily dock onto human cells, but it does not appear to make people sicker or the illness deadlier.
“This new strain is more contagious, and that means more people will get infected,” said Dr. Frederick Southwick, a professor of medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Florida. “If we had a problem, we're going to have more of a problem now.”
The possibility that new strains of COVID-19 will be resistant to existing vaccines are low, but not “inexistent,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the U.S. government’s vaccine distribution effort, said on CNN.
Other variants of COVID-19 have been identified in South Africa and Brazil. On Monday, Minnesota reported the first known case of the Brazil COVID-19 variant in the United States. The South African variant has not yet been reported in the United States.
The U.K. variant has been identified in at least 22 states across the country. There are currently 293 cases of the mutated U.K. strain in the United States, according to the CDC.
Some health officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that wearing more than one face covering can offer added protection against the coronavirus, especially as new strains and variants are identified.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC's "TODAY" show that a mask "is a physical covering to prevent droplets."
"So, if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," he said.