UK variant of COVID-19 found in Marion County 

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Posted February 10, 2021 | By Brendan Farrell, Ocala Gazette 

Cases of the more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 showed up recently in Marion County, according to local Florida Department of Health officials.

“We have seen several UK variant cases of COVID-19 in Marion County,” Mark Lander, administrator of the DOH in Marion County, wrote in an email.

With cases of the variant found in the county, it adds a new wrinkle to the local situation.

“It will be something that we will continue to watch due to the UK variant being more contagious than other strains that have been more common up until now in Marion County. The state regularly monitors for these new strains by random testing of COVID-19 test swabs,” Lander wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 932 cases of the UK variant, also known as B.1.1.7, are present in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon. Florida has the most cases of the variant with 343. The next closest is California with 156.

The CDC hasn’t reported any cases of the variants from Brazil or South Africa in Florida yet.

The B.1.1.7 variant was first reported in the UK in December and then became the dominant variant of COVID-19 in England. This variant is more contagious, as seen in the UK where areas with more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant had faster epidemic growth. In January, the CDC projected the B.1.1.7 variant to become dominant in the United States by March.

“The increased transmissibility of this variant requires an even more rigorous combined implementation of vaccination and mitigation measures (e.g., distancing, masking, and hand hygiene) to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC wrote. “These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread of the B.1.1.7 variant.”

The CDC also warned that the UK variant would place even more burden on the already strained healthcare system. According to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, just 8.17% of hospital beds are available in Marion County. The available capacity for adult ICU beds in the county is 11.65%.

Deaths are also on the rise in Marion County. According to Lander, some of the increase is due to older deaths from late December and January just being reported. According to the New York Times, Marion County has had 3.33 deaths per 100,000 people in the last seven days, the most in the state.

Through Wednesday, the county currently sits at 671 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the DOH.

On the vaccine front, the county has continued to surpass the 1,000 vaccines per day mark. Marion County averaged 1,643.5 vaccines per day between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, with two days of more than 2,400 vaccines.

After the county focused more on second doses last week, 12,786 people in Marion County have received their second shot, while another 24,212 have received their first shot for a total of 36,998 people who have been vaccinated.

“We’re increasing the total number of people vaccinated through the Paddock Mall site; people who are due for their second shot are also now coming through the site,” Lander wrote. “First-round and second-round shots are allocated differently, so the numbers of first versus second shots can vary by week.”

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