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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.

Tampa mayor urges vaccinations and boosters during a virtual coronavirus update

 Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health, spoke about a new Omicron subvariant.
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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health, spoke about a new omicron subvariant.

Mayor Jane Castor held a virtual discussion with Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior VP with USF Health, on the current status of COVID-19 in Hillsborough County.

With coronavirus infections on the rise in Hillsborough County, local leaders are urging residents to take precautions.

On Wednesday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health, spoke about a new omicron subvariant.

The strain, known as BA.2.12.1, is less severe than omicron but more transmissible. Lockwood says that means people who remain unvaccinated are at the biggest risk of getting sick.

"And that's probably the group that needs to be a little wary now," Lockwood said. "Maybe wear an N-95 in public. Nothing to be ashamed of, if you're at risk and you don't want to die, you've got to protect yourself and the best way to do that is with an N-95, or if you're really high risk, don't go out right now. This is kind of a little mini-epidemic within the epidemic."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this past week placed Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and five other Florida counties within its high-risk level for COVID-19.

But, Lockwood said, there is reason to believe the new strain will not overwhelm the health system.

“Each variant that is occurring is a mutation that makes the new variant more transmissible, but less virulent, less severe," Lockwood said. "People won’t be nearly as sick."

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