Spring breakers may cause a spike in coronavirus cases

(Photo: USA Today)

Disregard for public health measures from spring breakers and pandemic-weary tourists in South Florida will likely result in a spike of COVID-19 cases, health experts say.

Modeling suggests there’s going to be a “bump” in the curve, according to Dr. David Andrews, associate professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and vice chair for pathology laboratories at Jackson Health System.

“Everyone is concerned, and the University of Miami epidemiologists have projected a surge to emerge from that activity post-spring break,” he said. “They’re predicting a bump in the next couple of weeks.”

Although some Floridians and out-of-town vacationers may have immunity from prior infection or the vaccines, what worries experts most is the highly transmissible coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 is quickly becoming the dominant variant in Florida.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., accounts for about 50% of the positive cases sampled at Jackson Health, Andrews said. Experts say it could outpace the speed of vaccinations.

“What we’re seeing is an expansion of the U.K. variant in the Miami-Dade County,” he said. The more B.1.1.7 spreads, the more it’s likely to evolve into something more dangerous, he added.

In addition to this threat, experts are keep an eye out for the B.1.526 variant that could be brought in from New York. This variant popped up in New York City in late November and has since cropped up in neighboring states.

By Jan. 2021, the variant represented 3% of samples analyzed by researchers, rising to 12.3% by mid-February, according to a study by scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

Although the impact of the new B.1.526 variant on transmissibility, disease severity and risk of infection is still unknown, health experts are particularly worried because it contains a mutation associated with reinfection in other variants.

“If a large number of these people are coming from New York, that would be a matter of concern,” Andrews said.

Source: USA Today

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