Florida has become the third state in the U.S. to confirm a case of the mutant strain of COVID-19 as California officials find three more infections.
The Florida Department of Health confirmed the diagnosis on Thursday night. Officials said the man is in his 20s, lives in Martin County and has no history of travel.
On Thursday night, California officials also confirmed three more people have been infected with the virus variant. The state now has four cases of the strain, which was first detected in the United Kingdom and is thought to be 70% more transmissible than the original.
A 30-year-old man tested positive on Wednesday, and three more men – two in their 40s, and one in his 50s – also have been confirmed to have the strain.
Officials said that two of the men had not traveled outside the country and none of the men had any known interaction with each other.
Earlier this week, the first case was confirmed in Colorado and officials say they are also investigating a second suspected case in the state.
The fact that the confirmed cases in Colorado and Florida both involved individuals with no recent travel history means that the variant must already be circulating on US soil.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has been sounding the alarm that it’s only a matter of time before other states detect the strain.
The emergence of the strain in the US comes as many states weather harrowing surges in cases, hospitalizations and deaths while the vaccine rollout falls further and further behind schedule.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came under fire earlier this week after his state chose to ignore CDC recommendations and give the vaccine to elderly people ahead of frontline workers.
The Florida Department of Health confirmed the state’s first case of the mutant ‘super-COVID-19’ strain on Thursday night
Elderly Florida residents are seen lining up to receive COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday
Florida is ranked among the nation’s top coronavirus hotspots, with more than 1.32 million cases and 21,673 deaths reported to date.
The state broke its record for daily new cases on Thursday with 17,192, after posting near-record increases in the three consecutive days prior.
As of Thursday the state’s test positivity rate stands at 11.57 percent, down from 26.29 percent on Tuesday.
Concerns have grown in recent days that the state’s vaccine rollout plan could lead to even more infections, as long lines of high-risk elderly residents form outside vaccination sites.
Florida’s first case of the mutant strain was reported just north of Miami in Martin County, which is home to about 146,300 residents.
Florida is ranked among the nation’s top coronavirus hotspots, with more than 1.32 million cases and 21,673 deaths reported to date
Florida’s first case of the mutant strain was reported north of Miami in Martin County (highlighted), which is home to about 146,300 residents
Concerns have grown in recent days that Florida’s vaccine rollout plan could lead to even more infections, as long lines of high-risk elderly residents form outside vaccination sites
Music producer Emilio Estefan, 67, receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Wednesday
Florida Department of Health medical workers prepare to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to seniors in the parking lot of the Gulf View Square Mall in New Port Richey on Thursday
The chart above shows daily confirmed coronavirus cases over a seven-day average in the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Japan and India as of Thursday night
The first US case of the mutant ‘super-COVID’ strain was confirmed on Tuesday when Colorado officials said identified it in a male member of the National Guard who is in his 20s and works in a care home.
A second suspected case was also being investigated in Colorado on Wednesday, when California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the first case in his state.
‘Just an hour or so ago we were informed that this new variant, this new strain that we have identified obviously from the UK and some other parts of the globe, identified in Colorado yesterday has been identified here in the state of California, in southern California,’ Newsom said during a virtual conversation with Fauci.
The strain is not thought to be more deadly but is said to be significantly more contagious, marking a blow to the Golden State as its already buckling under the weight of the pandemic.
One Californian is now dying every three minutes from the virus with the state smashing its record for daily COVID-19 deaths Tuesday.
Governor Gavin Newsom (left) announced California’s first case of the strain on Wednesday during a virtual conversation with Dr Anthony Fauci (right)
What is the ‘mutant COVID strain’ and why are experts concerned?
Coronaviruses mutate regularly, acquiring about one new mutation in their genome every two weeks.
Most mutations do not significantly change the way the virus acts.
This super strain, named B.1.1.7, was first identified in the UK in November.
It has since been found in France, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Japan, Singapore, Australia and now the United States.
The new COVID-19 variant has a mutation in the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y).
It is more infectious than previous strains and potentially more harmful to children.
It is not, however, believed to be any more lethal.
Public Health England researchers compared 1,769 people infected with the new variant, with 1,769 who had one of the earlier strains of the virus.
Forty-two people in the group were admitted to hospital, of whom 16 had the new variant and 26 the wild type.
Twelve of the variant cases and 10 of the ‘older’ virus cases died within four weeks of testing.
Neither the hospitalization nor the mortality differences were statistically significant.
Newsom did not say where exactly the case was detected other than in Southern California.
He also gave no details on the identity of the individual or whether they have recently traveled. DailyMail.com has contacted Newsom’s office for more information.
Newsom asked Fauci about the new strain and what it could mean for the state and the US.
‘I know there has been a lot of conversations about the issue of variants, about the issue of transmissibility,’ the governor said.
‘I am curious more broadly on the issue of diagnostics on the testing side, immunity… have we received enough information to really understand the impacts in other categories?
‘Not just on the issue of severity of the disease and the transmissibility of this disease.’
Fauci told Newsom he was ‘not surprised’ that there was a case detected in California and said he expects other states to soon report cases of the strain.
‘I am not surprised that you have a case and likely more cases in California,’ the nation’s top immunologist said.
‘We likely will be seeing reports from other states – Colorado was the first place to do that and I think we will start seeing it as if you have that much of a prominence of this in the UK with all the travel not just directly to the United States but through other countries intermittently like when you go from the UK to France, France to the Unites States etc. then Canada has cases.
‘And so I don’t think the Californians should feel this is something odd. This is something that is expected.’
Fauci said there is ‘a lot we know’ already about the new strain because UK experts have been studying it but there is also a lot that will become clear as the ‘days and weeks go by’.
‘It looks pretty clear from the UK group that in fact the transmissibility of this mutant is more efficient than the transmissibility of the standard virus that we have been dealing with up to now,’ he explained.