By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In the midst of all the Super Bowl excitement, the hard reality remains that coronavirus is still a risk.

According to Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with FIU, gathering in groups right now is even more risky than it was over the holidays, due to the new mutations of the virus that have presented themselves.

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Super Bowl fun has the potentially to unfortunately create super spreader events.

“I think it’s imperative to remember – it’s people in their 20s through 50s that are spreading the virus the most,” Dr. Marty said. “Those people need to bear in mind that, not only are they putting themselves at risk, and putting others who may be more vulnerable at risk, but every single time that the virus spreads from person to person is another opportunity for more variance that can be more problematic to them, as well as to others.”

With the addition of these more contagious variants in the mix, Dr. Marty said South Florida is now in a riskier position, compared to gatherings over the holiday season.

“In Florida, we know that we have a high detection rate of the UK variant, and that virus spreads more easily. Moreover, in the last few days, we’ve been detecting that the UK variant has developed an additional mutation in some patients in different parts of the world,” she said. “That means, if you had COVID before from these first variants, and you now get this type of variant, or the one from South Africa or the one from Brazil, you basically have no protection.”

On a recent “Face the Nation” interview, Dr. Scott Gottlieb spoke about the original UK mutation and believes Florida’s numbers will remain high.

“Florida’s growing pretty significantly right now. Between 5 and 10% of the infections in Florida, B.1.1.7, that UK variant, the more contagious variant and that’s centered in southern Florida,” he said. “I think that what’s going to happen in Florida right now.  They’re continuing to show declines in new infections, like the rest of the country. I think as the rest of the country continues to come down that curve, you’re going to see a leveling off in Florida. While I don’t think that they’re going to have another surge of infection, they could have persistent high infection because B.1.1.7 is gaining a better foothold in that part of the country.”

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According to national data from Johns Hopkins, South Florida is coming off of the deadliest month of the pandemic. January 2021 marked that grim milestone.

CBS4 news partners the Miami Herald also reports a 40th straight day of a triple digit death toll in Florida.

Miami-Dade remains the hot spot.

“Miami-Dade is considered one of the hardest hit areas in the United States,” said Dr. Marty. “It’s among the top four counties of all the thousands of counties of the United States, in terms of both death and number of cases. However, that being said, we have more or less stabilized in Miami Dade right now. It really can make a big difference if we use the public health measures to lower our risk.”

As is the pattern, after big events like the Super Bowl, South Florida can expect to see that reflected in the numbers in about two to three weeks.

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Dr. Marty also points out some potentially good news. Companies Novartis and Santofi have agreed to make the Pfizer vaccine in their plants, along with the current manufacturer BioNTech. That is a mechanism for having more vaccine supply in the future.

Karli Barnett