Delta variant continues raising concerns among DHEC, healthcare professionals

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Only four days after the CDC declared the Delta variant of COVID-19 “of concern,” it announced that the strain accounts for more than 20% of new cases across the country.

This is particularly concerning in South Carolina, says Dr. Brannon Traxler with DHEC, because of our completed vaccination rate of 42.3%.

“We know we need more people vaccinated to reach that herd immunity, to get to that point where the people who can’t get vaccinated because of medical reasons or because they’re too young, that they are still protected,” says Traxler. “The only way that those folks can be protected is if the rest of us step up to the plate and get vaccinated.”

Dr. Marc Saint-Jour of Lexington Medical Center has been caring for COVID patients for the past year and has been conducting research on the Delta variant. He says the most concerning aspect of the virus is how contagious it is.

The CDC reports that the Delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible than other strains.

“If you’re in a room with people who have the Delta variance, the chance you’ll get it is more than the previous strains,” says Saint-Jour.

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Dr. Saint-Jour says it’s too soon to know yet if the variant does cause more severe disease because we currently have a lack of studies, but the CDC says it is possible. Saint-Jour referenced how little we know about the variant at this point, but says we are sure that it is more contagious and spreads much more quickly than other strains.

Since announcing the variant is a concern, the CDC has not updated any COVID precaution requirements such as widespread mask-wearing or social distancing that we’ve seen previously. The World Health Organization announced Friday that due to the variant, it recommends all vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors.

Dr. Traxler says DHEC will follow CDC guidelines as they are released, but the fact that they have not been released yet shows that we have not had a major surge, and Traxler says DHEC hopes that South Carolina does not see a surge in cases or deaths.

While DHEC continues to assess the Delta variant’s prominence in the state, Traxler reports that DHEC’s genome testing of COVID cases has not yet shown an increase in Delta cases since the initial four Delta cases were confirmed.

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