By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida saw a significant jump in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the past couple of weeks as the more contagious Delta variant continued to spread.

“The viral load in the Delta variant is 1,260 times higher than the alpha variant,” said Florida International University infectious disease specialist Dr. Aileen Marty.

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Marty said the COVID 19 pandemic is still a very real concern and the increase in cases of the Delta variant strain is proof

“The virus gets in our cells easier and replicates easier, it can overwhelm even the protection that is normal for a younger individual,” she said.

From July 9th to 17th, there was an 11 percent increase in Delta variant COVID cases.

Statewide, last week more than 45,600 people tested positive for COVID-19 getting the virus and there were 59 additional deaths. The state’s new case positivity rate stands at 11.5 percent.

Florida reported 20 percent of the nation’s new coronavirus cases over the last two weeks even though it makes up just 6.5 percent of the population.

Marty said the virus now impacting those who originally did not have a high risk of getting it

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“It’s so much easier to transmit. We’re also seeing a lot more severity of illness in young people who are not vaccinated,” she said.

Because of the increase in transmission, Marty said it’s a necessity that even those who are vaccinated should continue taking precautions like washing hands and wearing masks

“In a setting that you could potentially experience a high dose of the virus, if you’re in an unventilated space with people who are maskless and it’s crowded, you should wear a mask even if you are vaccinated. You can protect yourself and your community and in turn, by protecting yourself, you are also protecting the economy,” she said.

Marty said approximately 95 percent of those hospitalized now with COVID are not vaccinated. She said vaccinations are the number one protection against the virus.

Despite Miami-Dade County’s 75 percent vaccination rate, there were 7,052 newly reported cases last week and the county has a 7.4 percent new case positivity rate.

In Broward, the vaccination rate is 67 percent, but added 3,850 new cases last week and has a new case positivity rate of 8.1 percent.

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Monroe County, with a 69 percent vaccination rate, added 94 new cases last week and has an 8.1 percent positivity rate.