Alachua County reported its first case of the U.K. COVID-19 variant last week.
A 69-year-old female – who is possibly a South Florida resident given their address history and 305 area code from a disconnected phone number – tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant at a private pharmacy, according to Paul Myers, administrator for the Alachua County Health Department.
The strain spreads faster than other COVID-19 variants, and the health department is investigating the situation, Myers said.
Myers does not know if the person is still in the county.
The health department knows this strain may be more contagious, he said. According to the CDC, it spreads faster than other variants and may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other virus variants. However, the CDC reports more studies are needed to confirm this finding.
The U.K. variant of the virus arrived in Florida at the end of 2020. Now, 5% of Florida’s COVID-19 cases are of the variant, the Miami Herald reported.
Vaccines are still effective against this strain, though, Myers said.
“Nothing changes in terms of the protective measures that we've taken,” he said. “Continue the mitigation practices that we've all been doing.”
In light of the new strain, City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said the city commission moved forward with a mask mandate and new restrictions for restaurants, bars and retail, which would emphasize social distancing.
People should be cautious of the new strain and keep wearing masks and social distancing, Hayes-Santos said.
“It doesn't matter what strain we have here,” he said. “The virus is still here, and it's still very strong. We can't let up our guard now.”
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Michelle Holder is a second-year journalism student at UF minoring in entrepreneurship and a Metro reporter at The Alligator. She is from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her free time she enjoys going to coffee shops and reading.