ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida recently became the first state in the country to cross 1,000 cases of the more contagious U.K. coronavirus variant.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the state has 1,040 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant as of Monday, March 22. The number only is a sampling of "specimens and do not represent the total number," the CDC says, meaning the true number is likely higher.
Michigan is No. 2 in the country with 616 cases, while California has the third-most in the U.S. with 471 cases, according to the CDC.
Florida's latest record of U.K. variant cases comes as the state on Saturday surpassed a total of 2 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. It's not all bad news, however, as the state's 14-day moving average of daily cases has fallen dramatically since mid-January.
There are fewer cases of COVID-19 being reported each day compared to a couple of months ago.
The number of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine also is on the rise. This, health experts say, is important to finally bring about an end to the pandemic as the vaccines currently on the market not only are effective at limiting the spread of COVID-19 but its variants, too.
Cases could suddenly climb again should people opt not to get a vaccine and let their guards down, like choosing not to wear a mask and ignoring social distancing guidelines. Dr. Anthony Fauci last week said the concerning U.K. variant likely accounts for 20-30 percent of infections in the U.S. right now -- and that percentage is growing.
"Of concern is that there are about 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there's likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant," Fauci said.
Data has shown the vaccines appear to provide good protection against the B.1.1.7 variant, making it important to get one, Fauci said.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said as much this past weekend at the vaccine site at the Tampa Greyhound Track, saying now's the time to get a vaccine if you are eligible.
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