The latest and most infectious of the COVID-19 variants, which has raised both eyebrows and concern of a resurgence, hasn’t yet reached Fulton County, but it’s a matter of when.
The Delta variant, first identified in India in October 2020, has since invaded all of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their data gathered from the Midwest and upper mountain states suggests the variant accounts for approximately 80 percent of all cases in those areas, although the number is lower in Ohio.
In fact, the CDC estimates the Delta variant to be the most prevalent one in the country, representing more than half of all samples able to be tested. And it’s spreading, with Delta variant samples up from 26% in June.
“If I’m carrying it, and I’m infected, I’m passing it from (an) airborne route,” Fulton County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp said. “From the tests being done, there’s enough concern that this just seems to be, again, on the increase, definitely in the U.S. The mechanism that it uses as a virus – it’s just more effective at infecting people.”
Cupp said the variant looks to be twice as contagious as the Alpha variant, which originated in the United Kingdom. “From the tests being done, there’s enough concern that this just seems to be, again, on the increase, definitely in the U.S.,” she said. “The symptoms are the same, it’s just more infectious.”
Current COVID vaccinations also cover the Delta variant, and Cupp said that should be encouragement for the unvaccinated to get the shot.
“COVID is still – even the Delta variant – a vaccine preventable disease. We have a safe and effective vaccine, and this is the tool that we encourage all residents to use that are eligible to prevent any further positive cases,” she said.
Coronavirus case numbers are down in Fulton County, but that leaves fewer samples available for testing for the Delta variant. Since March, 13 Alpha variant cases and one Beta variant, a strain from South Africa, have been added to the county statistics. The Delta variant has not been found locally.
But Cupp believes that people already vaccinated can be confident the vaccine will protect them from the Delta variant as well.
“Currently in Fulton County, our case numbers are low, and hopefully they continue to stay low (below 10 new cases in a seven day period),” she said in a statement. “However, there is concern that a rise in Fulton County cases due to the increased contagiousness of the Delta variant will be seen. The Delta variant has not been identified in any of the positive COVID specimens at this time, but the Delta variant is expected to be seen in Fulton County due to the increase in Ohio, the Midwest, and throughout the United States. This is a vaccine preventable disease. Everyone who is eligible is encouraged to get vaccinated to protect themselves and to keep our community safe.
“Getting vaccinated and continuing to practice protective preventive steps is vitally important to reduce the number of individuals ill or carrying the virus.”
According to the Ohio Department of Health, between June 6-19, the Delta variant made up 15% of all variants sequenced during that two-week period. That’s significantly greater than the .90% of Delta variants sequenced just one month earlier.
Still, ODH spokesperson Alicia Shoults said the department “is unable to report a regional or county-level breakdown of Delta cases in the state due to the small numbers.”
Lucas County, however, has reported a Delta case.
Cupp’s greatest concern is the return of students to school next month, and events like the county fair and other community events. “Where we’re bringing in a lot of people together, we would reasonably expect to see an increase. But I hope I’m wrong. I hope that we have enough individuals that got vaccinated and individuals that have some immunity from previous infection from COVID to hold it off, but I’m concerned that it’s not.”
Unvaccinated people should continue to frequently wash their hands, social distance, wear a mask indoors, stay home if ill, and seek testing if COVID symptoms are suspected, according to Cupp.
Those who have received their shots can safely eschew a mask. “The vaccine is very effective against the variant,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.