MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - January marked a grim milestone, especially as the new variant of the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States. Now, there is a fear that Miami is at a higher risk of being exposed to the new strain.

Thirty-one million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the United States, so far – close to two million of these have been distributed in Florida.

As vaccinations continue, experts stress the progress needs to pick up, as the new variant could soon have us moving in the wrong direction.

A new at-home COVID-19 test will soon make it easier for anyone to know whether or not they have the virus.

“These are over-the-counter, self-performed, test kits that can detect COVID with roughly 95% accuracy within 15 minutes,” said White House senior advisor Andy Slavitt.

And the timing could not be any more critical.

“I think Miami is at the highest risk right now,” said former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Several mutations of COVID-19 are spreading across the country, including South Florida.

The CDC reports there are more than 140 cases of the UK strain in Florida, but that number could be higher.

Dr. Aileen Marty said out of the 70,000 plus COVID tests conducted a week, only 200 are being checked for the new strain.

“And that’s just not a reasonable percentage to help us truly understand where we are with these variants,” Marty said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said current vaccines on the market do a solid job at protecting patients from the UK variant, but the same can’t be said for the variants from Brazil and South Africa.

He adds the best way to stop new mutations from forming is to vaccinate as many people as possible, and fast.

“Viruses cannot mutate if they don’t replicate,” Fauci said.

CDC records show Florida has only distributed around half of the vaccines the state has on hand. That’s because second doses are being held back to make sure everyone who needs one can get one.

On Monday, the COVID-19 response team said they should be distributed.

“We want to be clear that we understand why healthcare providers have done that, but that it does not need to happen and should not happen,” Slavitt said.

On Monday the state reported 5,700 new cases of the virus and a positivity rate of nearly 8.4%.

Health experts warn if there is not a global vaccination effort, COVID-19 will never disappear.

“You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available, as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country,” Fauci said.

Fortunately, the state of Florida will be receiving over 300,000 more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Marty said we can’t only rely on vaccines, as everyone should keep wearing their masks, washing their hands often and practice social distancing.

“Let’s get on board and make sure that everybody understands that we have to protect one another in order to get past this,” she said.

Florida has developed a pre-registration system for people trying to make vaccination appointments.

When people log on or call the number for their county, they will be alerted once an appointment slot has become available.

State leaders advise residents to be patients and keep trying the pre-registration site and the phone numbers divided by county. They are as follows:

  • Miami-Dade: 888-499-0840
  • Broward: 866-201-6313
  • Monroe: 866-201-7069

For updated information about vaccinations in Florida, click here.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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