More-transmissible omicron variant has seeped into Florida; what will it mean for the pandemic?
Another omicron wave hits Florida hard. Image via AP.

covid florida
'We have no tolerance for COVID theater in Florida.'

A newer more-catchable COVID-19 variant, identified as BA.2, has already been detected in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And nationally, the variant has become more common among COVID-19 cases over the past couple of weeks.

There are hints globally that could spell a new wave of COVID-19 heading to the United States, due in part to the more-transmissible subvariant of omicron, according to national news outlets.

But how the trajectory of the variant will impact the pandemic in Florida and across the nation is unclear, as COVID-19 safety measures loosen.

In fact, at a news conference Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t say a word about BA.2, though he did discuss some COVID-19 issues.

Over the course of the pandemic, cases in Europe tend to be a vision of what’s to come for the United States. And certain European countries are seeing increased COVID-19 cases.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday: “Accelerated by the emergence of BA.2 — a more-transmissible strain of the omicron variant — the virus has spread rapidly. Germany on Tuesday set a fresh record for infection rates for the four straight day. Austria has also reached new highs, while cases in the Netherlands have doubled since lifting curbs on Feb. 25.”

Likewise, The Washington Post reported Wednesday: “A surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe has experts and health authorities on alert for another wave of the pandemic in the United States, even as most of the country has done away with restrictions after a sharp decline in cases.

The CDC is tracking samples of variants — for the most part, omicron. As of mid-March, BA.1.1. currently makes up 66.1% of COVID-19 cases reported in the variant sampling. B.1.1.529 represents 10.8%. The new BA.2 is now at 23.1% — up from 13.7% from the week before.

As recently as January, COVID-19 cases were surging as a result of omicron. Now, BA.2 appears to be more transmissible, or easier to spread.

But it’s not clear if the newer variant will cause a surge at this point, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported Thursday: “COVID cases are still falling drastically in the United States — even as BA.2 is accounting for a greater fraction of those dwindling cases.”

The Times also reports that the variant does not appear to be more severe than the initial omicron variant and that vaccines are still effective against hospitalizations, particularly for those who are boosted with a third shot.

As for Florida, only about 1% of the COVID-19 samplings are related to BA.2. In other words, the previous omicron strains are still the main contributor to COVID-19 cases, for now.

As of March 15, there’s been only 1,250 new COVID-19 cases in Florida. And the most recent state report shows that from March 4 through March 10, there were 87 deaths from COVID-19 cases.

The Florida Department of Health announced last week on Twitter that it will no longer release weekly COVID-19 reports, moving to a biweekly reporting schedule.

This means that the state Department of Health won’t be reporting on the state’s COVID-19 cases, deaths attributed to COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccination rate, and other information for two weeks at a time, even if the BA.2 actually impacts the state worse than omicron.

DeSantis Thursday railed against federal decisions to extend mask requirements for airlines while at a news conference at an Okaloosa County elementary school in the Panhandle.

Before he announced anything education-focused, DeSantis referred to certain COVID-19 policies as “all for show.”

“We have no tolerance for COVID-19 theater in Florida. We are not going to be doing these destructive policies,” he said Thursday.

DeSantis continued: “And if you look now what they just did — they extended the forced masking on airplanes and on transportations. Now think about this. You go on an airplane, and you just want to sit there and read a magazine without a mask, they say that’s the worst thing in the world. But if the person right next to you pulls the mask down and fake sip on water for two hours then they don’t have to wear the mask. I mean give me a break.

“This is theater. This should not be extended. It should have never been done in the first place but clearly, now this is a farce. And so, they need to repeal the transportation mandate. Let people fly and let them breathe normally. We have got to stop with the theater.”

He added: “You have families where the airlines are going to hassle families about masking a two-year-old or a three-year-old and that’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “Trust me — I mean, we would never do that to my kids — but I, it’s hard enough keeping them in order then you put that on there? I mean, give me a break.”

That said, 17 Republican members of Congress this week have sued the CD and CD officials, seeking an end to the federal rule requiring passengers on commercial flights and in airports to wear masks.


Danielle Brown reporting via Florida Phoenix.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Jc

    March 18, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    Who in the world would “fake sip” on water for two hours so they can have their mask lowered? I mean, give me a break…

    • PK

      March 18, 2022 at 5:01 pm


    • Brian Brady

      March 23, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      Me too

  • AnnainFL

    March 19, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    He says give me a break? Idiot….give me a break from this narcissist…

  • Ec

    March 19, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    News flash….government provided mask doesn’t prevent it, government shots doesn’t stop it and government policies on travel doesn’t stop the spread either. Frankly most people survive it as Darwin would say “survival of the fittest”. So get over the arguing about masks bc it’s here to stay for a long time.

  • Tjb

    March 19, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    Covid theater?
    Hey Ron, how about the 72,000 plus Floridians that have died from Covid. Were they acting? Your poor leadership and pitiful actions regarding Covid prevention have cause more deaths than necessary. You state that you are pro-life for the unborn, but what about the lives of those outside the womb. Should your administration be call the “theater of death”?

    • Antonio

      March 21, 2022 at 6:53 pm

      Covid theater is about masks. He’s never denied the existence of Covid itself. This is beyond silly. California locked down twice as hard and their deaths weren’t cut in half. Not to mention that all those death counts are questionable anyway as CDC director Wolenski recently admitted that they can’t really differentiate between people dying from covid and people that died with covid. If you are scared, just stay home forever. But normal people want the freedom to choose and live normally, and they are going to take responsibility for themselves. The government is meant to be a guardrail for society, it’s not there to be your nanny and think for you.

    • Pittsburgh

      March 23, 2022 at 3:27 am

      I will BOLDLY say that not a single person on this planet has died from the chinavirus because he/she failed to wear a stupid fauci face diaper and not a single person on this planet has died because he/she was around others who did not wear one either. This covid theater bullshit must stop NOW!!! This is 0% about ‘public health’ and 100% about CONTROL and CONFORMITY!!!!! That shit does has NO PLACE in America, a FREE country.

      • Pick a spot

        March 23, 2022 at 10:33 am

        “I will boldly say”

        COVID: yeah the others did too

  • Moody

    March 19, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    COVID 19: feeling cute. Might take Ron to hurt locker lol

  • Covidsurvivor2020

    March 20, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    The scientist Darwin was right about evolution and survival of the fittest. Older sick people died. Some others had underlying health reasons which caused their death. Nursing home patients (25k) were infected bc politicians like Cuomo isolated them in confined facilities with Covid positive people and died. That’s unfortunate bc the current vaccine shots and masks didn’t and won’t prevent one from contracting and/or the spread of the virus. People were fooled into believing that by Fauci and the CDC. If you’re so sick and think the jabs and boosters are for you, then get them. But masks on a plane, train, bus, stadium, theater, etc… don’t stop a dam think when it comes to the Covid virus.

    • Tjb

      March 24, 2022 at 12:09 pm

      Florida has 6.5 % of the USA population and 9.2 % of the Covid deaths. Got to love DeSantis, he has given us the freedom to die maskless and unvaccinated.

      • Antonio

        March 25, 2022 at 4:40 pm

        Do you blame Newsom for all California deaths? Did you blame Cuomo for all the NY deaths? Your point is so utterly ridiculous. If you are so scared, stay home forever. Forcing others to do what YOU want is not noble, it’s authoritarian. As in the literal meaning of the word.

Comments are closed.


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