Florida’s first cases of the omicron variant are in Tampa and St. Lucie County


Officials say a patient at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital had mild symptoms and recently returned from international travel. The St. Lucie case was also travel-related.

The first known cases of the coronavirus omicron variant in Florida have been detected in St. Lucie County and at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, the state Department of Health reported.

A health department spokeswoman announced the findings Tuesday, saying in a statement the strain was “quickly identified” as three state laboratories continue to actively sequence genomes of the coronavirus.

A spokeswoman from the Veterans Affairs hospital said the patient has mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel.

A spokesperson for the health department confirmed to media outlets another omicron case was detected in St. Lucie County. The case is also travel-related.

Contact tracing has been conducted to identify possible exposures and necessary quarantine protocols, the health department said.

Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health, commented on the omicron variant in an internal memo sent out to VA hospital employees.

“I have been predicting for some time that the COVID-19 pandemic would end with a ‘whimper and not a bang’ as the virus gradually mutates into a form consistent with the coronaviruses that cause a quarter of common colds …” he stated in the memo sent Wednesday morning.

Speaking in Oldsmar on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida will not change its approach in dealing with the latest variant.

“In Florida, we won’t let them lock you down. We won’t let them restrict you. We’re not going to let them impose mandates. We’re not going to let them close the schools. We are going to protect your freedom to make your decision,” DeSantis said.

“If people are scared of omicron and want to isolate, that’s their decision. You don’t impose Fauci-ism on the whole country or whole state. It’s wrong,” he added in a slight to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

At least 19 states have reported cases of the omicron variant as of Tuesday.

Researchers have said there much about the variant that is unknown. Fauci has said that while it appears to be more transmissible than others, it is less likely to lead to severe illness.

This report was contributed to by an internal memo obtained by WUFT News.

About WUSF

WUSF is an NPR affiliate in Tampa.

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