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This new Florida variant may be the ‘zeta’ variant. Here’s why

Dr. Peter Hotez said the new variant without a Greek letter might be the zeta variant because of its specific mutations

Raquel Heres gets a COVID-19 rapid test in Florida.
Raquel Heres gets a COVID-19 rapid test to be able to travel overseas on Saturday, July 31, 2021, in North Miami, Fla.
Marta Lavandier, Associated Press

A new coronavirus variant has been swirling around Florida recently, and now one expert might have given it a name.

What is the Florida variant?

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the B.1.621 variant — originally discovered in Colombia — has made its way to South Florida.

Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System in Florida, told WPLG that the variant is making up 10% of all cases right now in South Florida.

  • But, as I explained for the Deseret News, B.1.621 variant has not received a Greek-letter designation, which has often happened to prevalent variants like the delta variant and the lambda variant.

Is the Florida variant also the zeta variant?

The new variant might actually be the “zeta” COVID-19 variant, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez said Wednesday morning that the new variant has a number of changes to it that make it something other than the delta variant. He said it has characteristics of the South African and Brazilian variants, along with the potential to escape vaccines. He said the vaccine has some mutations similar to the delta variant, too, which makes it more transmissible.

  • “I don’t think it has a Greek letter designation yet but based on these properties and the fact that we allowed it to take hold due to low vaccination rates in the South, (and their place in the Greek alphabet), I propose ζ,” he said.

The ζ symbol represents the word “zeta” in the Greek alphabet. ζ, is the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet.

Should you worry about the zeta variant?

The Washington Post reports that there have been 16 cases of this B.1.621 variant so far. Public Health England said there has been no evidence that the variant makes vaccines less effective or that it causes more severe disease.