Fast-spreading, aggressive Delta variant of COVID now reported in Florida

The highly aggressive Delta variant first detected in India has surfaced in Florida, just as national leaders warn it could soon become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID tracker shows Florida has at least 72 cases of the variant as of June 15.

Federal health officials have labeled Delta a “variant of concern,” a designation given to strains that show evidence of increased transmissibility or that cause a more severe disease. The variant, scientifically known as B.1.617.2, is considered more likely to cause severe illness in unvaccinated people — symptoms develop more quickly and viral loads climb faster than in people infected with other variants.

Delta, considered 60% more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain, already has become predominant in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged people to get vaccinated to help combat the spread of the Delta variant, during an interview on NPR. He has repeatedly said: “We’ve seen that when Delta variant spreads among non-vaccinated people, it can become dominant very, very quickly,” he added. In the U.S., the Delta variant now represents roughly 10% of all cases, according to the CDC.

In Florida, getting more people vaccination will become critical.

About 51% of the total population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. However, vaccine researchers say full vaccination is important for this particular variant. So far, the full series of vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to prevent infection by the Delta variant.

“This is a reminder that although there have been fewer infections in Florida, we haven’t turned the corner yet,” said Marco Salemi, a professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine Emerging Pathogens Institute. “This is not the time to relax. We need to track this aggressive variant and see how it goes in the next few months and keep up with efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed the coronavirus Delta variant earlier this week after the CDC upgraded the level of concern. Unlike the original strain, the Delta variant spreads mostly through adolescents and children, which contradicts DeSantis’ repeated statements during the pandemic that children are not “vectors” or responsible for the spread of COVID

The governor did acknowledge he expects the numbers of COVID-19 infections in the Sunbelt to increase over the summer and urged Floridians to get vaccinated.

Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at