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Gov. DeSantis’ team cites ‘less aggressive strain’ of COVID-19 in Florida

A “less aggressive strain” of the coronavirus is how doctors characterized the current COVID-19 strain during a Sunday news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Speaking about the high numbers of positive tests for COVID-19 statewide, DeSantis pointed to the younger population as the reason for the spike in Florida cases.

Flanked by medical professionals, DeSantis said people ages 25-34 are the ones contracting the coronavirus in Florida in much higher numbers than anyone else.

“You didn’t hear much about social distancing on TV for a couple weeks when there was a lot of stuff in big groups. So, the average person was then, like why can’t we go have a get-together. I totally get that, but I think those interactions have led to some increases in cases,” said DeSantis.

The spike in cases is not filling up hospital intensive care units because very few of the cases are among the elderly population. Also, the doctors with DeSantis called this a less aggressive strain of the virus, although they stressed that theory needs further study.

“The less aggressive virus is spreading throughout the community‚” said Dr. Jason Foland from Studer Family Children’s Hospital. “People who, in the beginning, were getting sick and dying weren’t spreading the virus. And on top of that, the elderly populations were isolating themselves, so we’re seeing maybe a less virulent, or a less strong spread throughout the community in a population that doesn’t have a lot of symptoms.”

A News4Jax scan of recent scientific literature found limited speculation about a less aggressive strain of COVID-19. On the contrary, there were reports of a mutated strain of the virus that makes it more infectious.

The Scripps Research Institute, located in Jupiter, Florida, published a paper online earlier this month that its study of a mutation was going through a standard peer-review process.

“Our study shows that the mutant virus infects cells much more efficiently in a cell-culture system because the mutation stabilizes the spike protein and increases the number of spike proteins on the virus,” Hyeryun Choe, the paper’s senior author, told Newsweek.

DeSantis also said Sunday he doesn’t speculate about the closing of businesses beyond suspending alcohol sales at bars. He said when bars did first re-open there was no way to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

“There was just widespread non-compliance. So my agency is trying to find a way forward. You had so many examples where those guidelines are just tossed aside,” said DeSantis.

The doctors on the panel said there is not clinical data at this point to back up the suspicion that this is a less aggressive strain of the virus. But, the doctor you heard from said there is a lot of belief among members of the medical community that is the case.


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