Online Originals: The Delta variant: questions, concerns and another mask mandate?


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Medical professionals say there is an increase in urgency for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the new, and highly contagious Delta variant makes its way across the country.

The CDC reports the variant now accounts for 1 in every 5 new COVID cases, nearly doubling over the past couple of weeks. Experts are worried the new strain will become the dominant variant in the United States.

The Delta variant is believed to have originated in India, and health experts say it is up 60% more infectious than previous variants we’ve seen. The CDC has classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern” because of how quickly it spreads compared to other current COVID-19 variants. Early studies from the United Kingdom have also indicated those infected with the Delta variant have a possible increased risk of hospitalization.

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Just last week, eight NC State baseball players contracted the Delta variant. Some of those players were fully vaccinated. That’s why medical experts are so concerned. Even with vaccination, these variants can still cause infection and spread.

Dr. Ronald May, Vice President of Medical Affairs at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, said that risk is small but it’s not zero. He says the real concern is the people who have not had any vaccine.

When they’ve had two doses, it appears that they are reasonably well-protected from severe disease for sure and even from getting any infection with this variant. Maybe it’s not quite as good as with some of the other variants but it’s still substantial protection.

CarolinaEast Medical Center Vice President of Medical Affairs Ronald May, M.D.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has expressed her concern about the variant on social media and in press briefings. The department worries that counties with low vaccination rates are at risk of seeing the variant more than neighboring counties with high vaccine rates. That’s why Cohen and other medical and health experts are urging people to get their vaccine, it may be the only line of defense against the Delta variant.

While our COVID-19 trends are good, we are still seeing unvaccinated people hospitalized and dying from this virus, and many struggling with long-term effects like having difficulty breathing when doing simple activities. This is preventable if you get a vaccine to protect yourself and your community.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

With a little over half of the adult population in our state vaccinated, May says that means potentially 50% could become infected. He says if that happened in a rapid way, it could overwhelm hospitals and health care staff again, just like we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.

9OYS asked May if he sees mask mandates coming back into play in the next few months. He said that has become more of a political question than medical. But he recommends that all people vaccinated or otherwise, should consider continuing to wear the mask to reduce that risk.

In recent weeks, the World Health Organization reiterated that same sentiment that all people, including those inoculated, should continue to wear masks.

“We are in a much better place, but we are not past this, it’s not over. So people need to be thoughtful about their own health and the health of others,” May said.

State COVID-19 metrics as of June 30th at 11:55am:

53% of the state’s adult population is fully vaccinated.

208 newly reported cases.

The daily percent positive of test coming back is down to 2.7%.

393 people are currently hospitalized in North Carolina hospitals with the virus.

13,437 total deaths in the state.

Click to learn more from the NCDHHS

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