COVID-19 cases in Florida since the spring break have surged and deaths from new variants are mounting

COVID-19 cases in Florida since the spring break have surged and deaths from new variants are mounting
People walk along Ocean Drive on March 18, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The number of coronavirus cases that involve "variants of concern" have surged in Florida since the peak of spring break.

Florida Department of Health figures show that, as of Thursday, there were 5,177 cases that involved variants of concern in the state - six times higher than what was there in mid-March, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the term "variants of concern" for mutations of the coronavirus that can spread more easily or be more deadly, or that appear to make current vaccines less effective.
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It has identified five variants of concern, and the Sentinel reported that all five were found in Florida in the past few weeks.

These cases put 122 people in hospital, and 31 of those have died, the Sentinel reported.

The Sentinel obtained the figures through a lawsuit it filed against the Florida Department of Health.
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Zinzi Bailey, a social epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told the Sentinel that the outcome is what health experts feared.

During the annual spring break, Florida party hot spots were overrun with mainly maskless young people. Miami Beach eventually declared a state of emergency and set a curfew, and police arrested hundreds. "This is kind of what a lot of public health folks have been afraid of, and why we're trying to emphasize the need for continued caution as we move forward," said Bailey.
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She also said that it can't be known for sure if the spike is directly due to spring break, or a lack of restrictions more generally, but that it looks likely.

"Whether we can link any of these rises to spring break, up to a point, we're doing a little bit of speculation

"But from a basic logic standpoint, we would anticipate that people coming from all across the country who might be exposed to different kinds of folks, whether that's in their hometown or in the airport, it's always going to be a possibility."
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COVID-19 cases in Florida since the spring break have surged and deaths from new variants are mounting
People gather while exiting the area as an 8pm curfew goes into effect on March 21, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

She said that letting the coronavirus spread could also form new, dangerous mutations to form, in addition to the ones already discovered abroad and imported.

"My biggest fear is that, if we become more lax with our masking and our social distancing, we will actually start creating our own variant."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious disease expert, blamed the surge in cases across the US at the end of March on the premature ending of restrictions in some parts of the country, including travel around spring break.
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Miami's law enforcement said earlier this month that there were large crowds in the city because people wanted to find a place with fewer restrictions.
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