‘It’s not over yet’: UF Health Doctor warns against COVID-19 complacency as case numbers drop

ORLANDO, Fla. — As COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted across Central Florida, doctors in the state say it might be too soon to ease up on those safety measures.

According to recent data, Florida now has the lowest rate of daily new COVID-19 cases per capita than any place else in the nation.


READ: Orange County Public Schools moves to parent opt-out face mask policy for students

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings recently let the state of emergency that had been in place throughout the pandemic expire, but he says people still need to be cautious and get vaccinated because the virus- like any other- mutates in people it infects.

For more than a year now, Altamonte Springs has been testing its wastewater to track the presence of the coronavirus.

They’ve been detecting the Delta strain of the virus for months, but now, they say they’ve found traces of the Mu variant.

“It’s the first time we detected it in any of the sewer service areas in North Orange County and Seminole County,” Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz said. “The concern is obviously whenever you see something new that shows up, you worry about what that means for the community.”

Martz says they found a very low concentration of the Mu variant.

Data scientist Eric Solomon says that’s because most every new COVID-19 case in the United States right now is from the Delta variant.

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It was about a month ago when the Mu variant first emerged. In early September the World health Organization classified it as a variant of interest, but so far, it still hasn’t been moved to the more urgent variant of concern category.

“If you were to have Mu and Delta in a boxing ring, Delta is gonna win,” UF Health Epidemiologist Dr. Nicole Iovine said in September.

Which means the Mu strain in the sewers isn’t a significant concern because the Delta variant is much more contagious.

According to Dr. Cindy Prins of UF Health, Florida appears to be on the “downslope” of the pandemic as things have improved significantly, but she says there’s still a risk of people dropping their guard too quickly.

“We still have a lot of transmission,” Dr. Prins said. “We’re still looking at what CDC considers to be either high or substantial transmission in a lot of our counties.”

Prins also warns that the upcoming holiday season could produce another spike.

“People like to travel, they tend to gather together. We need to know that even though Florida is seeing a decrease in cases, there are other places in the U.S. where they’re seeing increases in cases.”

READ: State of Florida files lawsuit against Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccine mandates

So, Dr. Prins says, while the pandemic situation has clearly improved, it’s still not behind us.

“It’s not over yet,” Dr. Prins said. “I hate to discourage people, but I think we need to be realistic as well. Right now we’re in a stage where we are learning to live with this pandemic.”

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