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Spring break, COVID-19 and why a new variant could cause cases in Florida to surge

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding says the latest data shows that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible in children and is surging in Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — We know you have a lot of questions about COVID-19 and the latest information about new variants being found in Florida.

Each week 10 Tampa Bay is talking with Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding. He is an epidemiologist with the Federation of American Scientists and has been at the forefront of spreading facts not fear about the coronavirus.

With Spring break starting the week of March 15th for both Hillsborough and Pinellas County Public Schools, the largest school districts in the bay area, 10 Tampa Bay’s Courtney Robinson talked with Dr. Feigl-Ding to get a sharper insight about the implications.

He says while case numbers are dropping and even seem to be plateauing the B.1.1.7 variant looks to be surging in Florida, according to the latest data from the Helix COVID-19 surveillance dashboard. It makes up approximately 42 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state compared to the roughly 26 percent in the United States.

Dr. Feigl-Ding says because the B.1.1.7 is more contagious than other variants, we should be concerned as we head into possibly more visitors and families traveling to Florida.

“We're in a crucial window where we could still prevent a surge now if we're careful, but with the looming spring bake, and how millions are going to come to Florida, and then return to wherever they come from, it could really exacerbate this,” he said.

“This could be the first time that we are gathering under which B.1.1.7 will be dominant across Florida. And that's a really, really bad concern. And even though vaccines are out there, that you know, only about 10 percent of America has been fully vaccinated. And this still leaves a huge pool of people who are still don't.”

Dr. Feigl-Ding also says the latest data shows that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible in children. 

He tells 10 Tampa Bay it is crucial that even though teachers are vaccinated, children and those who are not vaccinated should wear masks, not gather in large crowds outdoors and especially keep their distance indoors.

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