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Health News Florida
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

South African COVID-19 Variant Identified In Orange County

A medical worker at South Shore University Hospital gets ready to administer the newly available Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Bay Shore, N.Y., Wednesday. Clinical research found it to be 85% effective in preventing severe disease four weeks after vaccination, and it has demonstrated promising indications of protection against a couple of concerning variants of the coronavirus.
A medical worker at South Shore University Hospital gets ready to administer the newly available Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Bay Shore, N.Y., Wednesday. Clinical research found it to be 85% effective in preventing severe disease four weeks after vaccination, and it has demonstrated promising indications of protection against a couple of concerning variants of the coronavirus.

Departmenr of Health epidemiologist Alvina Chu says Orange’s two B.1.351 variant cases were members of the same family with no reported travel.

Florida continues to have the country’s most COVID-19 variant cases, with 3,279 reported Monday, including 24 of the closely watched B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida had 3,191 cases of the B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom, and 64 of the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.

That’s a jump from 2,330 overall cases from a week ago.

Nationally, more than 15,000 cases of the U.K. variant have been confirmed, the CDC says. There were 374 cases of the South African variant and 279 of the Brazil mutation.

Orange County, which recorded 37 new variant cases in the past week, had two patients with the South African mutation. Overall, 142 variants have been identified in the county, mostly of the B.1.1.7 variety.

Epidemiologist Alvina Chu says Orange’s two South African variant cases were identified March 21 and members of the same family with no reported travel.

Chu says she’s concerned but she’s not panicked about the presence of the South African variant in the region.

“That variant there have been studies to show that it can be up to 50 percent more transmissible and also potentially with increased severity of illness,” Chu says.

Chu says she recommends people continue with pandemic precautions even if they’ve been vaccinated – and for anyone who hasn’t yet, to get the shot.

She says every infection is a chance for the virus to mutate, so she expects there will be other new variants identified until Central Florida reaches herd immunity.

“Eventually there may be some mutations that are able to evade our control measures,” she says. “So, this is why it’s so crucially important right now while we have really good and effective vaccines that we continue the pandemic precautions to contain the spread and to reduce the number of new infections.”