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COVID-19 Variant, Vaccine Rollout and Butterfly Gardens


A resident in Florida has tested positive for the COVID-19 variant. Plus, Florida's seniors are set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. And a look at an "agrihood" community in Palm Beach County.

On this Monday, Jan. 4, episode of Sundial:

COVID-19 Variant

A new variant of COVID-19 has made its way to the United States. Florida is the latest of three states to have patients infected with the variant.

Although it doesn’t appear to be stronger or more lethal, it is believed to be substantially more contagious. This new variant was detected by public health officials in England with a sudden spike in cases in early December. An epidemiological study, and lab studies, found a variant that had several specific mutations and that this variant was the predominant strain going around in southeast England.

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“They took samples that they had stored and they looked back and were able to realize that they had samples as far back as the 20th of September.Over 50 percent of the isolates in southeast England had that very strain by then. So they knew that there was something going on and they were able to show how it was much more contagious,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at FIU. She’s also part of Miami-Dade County’s COVID-19 task force.

Marty attributes the sudden surge of cases in Southern California to this new variant and urges the importance of continuing safety measure that mitigate the spread of Coronavirus.

“They don't understand that every single time that you let this virus into a new host, you're giving the virus an opportunity to modify itself into a new variant, which can be not only more transmissible but harder to diagnose, harder to treat or harder to prevent. So the reality is we have to do everything in our power to halt transmission, and that means each and every one of us,” Marty said.

Vaccine Rollout

Across different parts of Florida, vaccine distribution is underway. Instead of prioritizing frontline workers, Gov. Ron DeSantis is instead opening up vaccination to elderly, higher risk individuals to the virus.

“So far, hospitals and the state's Department of Health in counties across the state have been handling the distribution. That's what's causing a lot of confusion, because each hospital in each county has been taking a different approach,” said Ver´onica Zaragovia, WLRN's healthcare reporter.

In Broward County, there have been countless reports of individuals having difficulties scheduling appointments and waiting hours in line to receive the immunization.

“The website of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County crashed pretty soon after it launched a bunch of appointment possibilities. On Sunday, it was back up with a lot of more appointments available. But, then it crashed by midday. There are phone numbers to call, but those get jammed,” Zaragovia said.

Sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties launched for seniors to sign up for vaccination appointments that would start in the next few days, but both crashed within minutes.

“I think counties were pretty caught off guard with how quickly that executive order to get ordinary, healthy seniors over 65 vaccinated so quickly. I think a lot of people were anticipating, still focusing on health workers, still focusing on long-term care facility residents, and then they kind of had to scramble to get the public and seniors in the community vaccinated so quickly,” said Stephanie Colombini, a reporter with WUSF in Tampa.

Vaccine Guidelines

Butterfly Gardens

Gardening has become an increasingly popular activity during the coronavirus pandemic. For folks in the Arden community in Palm Beach County, the practice was a part of life long before COVID. Residents at the "agrihood" live around a farm-and participate in the experience of growing food. We spoke with Tripp and Carmen Eldridge, the farm directors at Arden.

“Agrihood definitely has a broad range of spaces from small community garden spaces and ours here in the center part of our community is five acres. So we actually grow organic vegetables for all of the residents that live in the community," Eldridge said.

They grow over forty different varieties of vegetables and thirty varieties of tropical fruit — items like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tons of kale, collards, cucumbers, squash.

Arden recently launched a butterfly garden program teaching children how to get involved.

“We love the idea of children connecting with nature, and especially now it's extremely therapeutic to get outside and get your hands in the dirt. We specifically built a children's garden that's a sensory garden for kids to kind of touch, taste and smell different things,” Eldridge said.

Stay Connected
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.