A new, highly infectious Covid-19 variant is spreading widely in Florida, raising concern that it could become the dominant strand, even as cases and hospitalizations drop dramatically.

In Florida, Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped significantly from recent highs, helped by progress in the vaccination campaign. But conditions aren’t improving as vastly in the Sunshine State, at least in specific vital categories. The per-capita rate of Covid-19 patients currently in Florida hospitals is now about 25% above the national average. New patients arrived at the hospital emergency departments at slightly higher rates than the rest of the country.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Florida is leading the country with at least 201 confirmed cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7 out of the United Kingdom. This new strain is 35-45% more transmissible than other strains of the virus currently in the US, the report found. Number from the state’s health department show the highest concentration of cases remain in South Florida. When the CDC first warned of the new variant’s presence in the US in mid-January, it was present in less than 0.5% of cases. This figure had jumped to 3.6% by the end of the month. California and Michigan join the sunshine state for the highest variant cases.

“Our study shows that the US is on a similar trajectory as other countries where B.1.1.7 rapidly became the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, requiring immediate and decisive action to minimize Covid-19 morbidity and mortality,” the report’s authors wrote.

The spread of the variant added pressure on vaccination efforts worldwide. The CDC predicted it could be the predominant strain by the end of March. According to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, about 17.6% of Floridians have had at least one shot of a vaccine, in line with the 17.7% national average.

“Florida is a national leader in sequencing for mutations of the COVID-19 virus,” FDOH said in a statement. “In fact, as of Feb. 5, the Florida Department of Health has sequenced 4,224 COVID-19 specimens, with more than 220 sequenced last week. By leading in sequencing, the department is actively looking for the variant in Florida, which is why more cases are being discovered in Florida.”