Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all local COVID-19 restrictions by executive order Monday—the same day that state health officials released worrying figures on the spread of coronavirus variants. The county-by-county statistics, released as part of a legal settlement with the Orlando Sentinel, show that more than 11,000 cases of "variants of concern" have now been reported in the state, with the total almost doubling in the space of two weeks. The figures show that on March 14, as the spring break influx to the state began, only 753 cases of the variants B117, P1, and B1351 had been detected, ABC reports. Only around 1% of cases are tested for genetic coding, meaning the true number of variants is likely to be much higher than state figures suggest.
The figures show that two counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, account for almost 40% of the variant cases. The B117 variant first detected in Britain accounts for the vast majority of the variant cases, but officials say they are alarmed by the two known cases of the extremely infectious P2 variant first detected in Brazil, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Health experts say that while overall COVID cases are declining, the state shouldn't let down its guard too soon. "The real problem is that everyone’s acting like the pandemic is over," Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious disease and outbreak response at Florida International University, tells the Orlando Sentinel. She warns that the situation could worsen if people become "lackadaisical" and says the most important thing is for more people to get vaccinated. (Read more Florida stories.)