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Covid variant found in Florida; more cases identified in California

The strain first detected in the U.K. has now been reported in three states.
Image: Health Care workers receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida
Syringes with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Dec. 15. Marco Bello / Reuters file

Florida health officials said Thursday they have evidence that the Covid-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom has been found in a patient there, making it the third state to report the strain.

As the variant crops up in new states, officials in San Diego County, California, said the strain, which is sometimes known as B.1.1.7., has been identified in three more people in San Diego County, bringing the number of confirmed cases there to four.

The Covid-19 variant is believed to be more transmissible but not more deadly than the strain that started the pandemic, and there is no evidence that vaccines are any less effective against it, health officials say.

The variant has been found in other countries, including Canada, where cases have been reported in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, according to Canada's chief public health officer.

Colorado was the first state to announce a confirmed case of the variant, which was found in a National Guard member. The case was announced Tuesday. Another guard member may also have it, the state epidemiologist said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, when California announced its first case in a San Diego man, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said more cases are likely.

In Florida, the state Health Department tweeted that the strain was identified in a 20-year-old man in Martin County with no history of travel. The county is on Florida's east coast, south of Port St. Lucie.

The California case announced Wednesday in San Diego County involved a 30-year-old man, also with no history of travel. The three new cases were all men, two in their 40s and one in his 50s, and none had known contact with one another or the first case, the county said.

"The discovery of the additional cases leads County Health Officials to believe that the new strain of the virus is widespread in the community," the county said in a statement.

A surge in Covid-19 cases is threatening to overwhelm California's hospitals. On Thursday, San Diego County reported its highest single-day number of new deaths, 62.

Health officials have stressed that the best way to avoid getting what is referred to as the U.K. variant is the same as for other forms of the coronavirus: washing hands, keeping away from crowds and other people and wearing a mask.