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Delta variant continues to raise concerns in Georgia, South Carolina

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 8:22 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - 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.

That’s particularly concerning to health officials in South Carolina, which has a vaccination rate of 42.3%, and Georgia, where the rate is 38%.

In South Carolina

“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 says Dr. Brannon Traxler with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. “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.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the Delta variant is 40% to 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.

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.

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.

In Georgia

Many people in Georgia are pondering the need for booster shots as the variant spreads.

In Savannah, Heather Sueirro is fully vaccinated and is actually one of the first people who got her Pfizer shot back in October as a participant in the vaccine trial.

“I certainly did not want to get coronavirus. I was very cautious like most people I was you know mask all the time, washing my hands religiously and for the most part I still am, but I just felt like let me take one for the team I don’t know if we have a lot of representation for the COVID trial and I thought that it would be just a smart move for me to go in an test it out,” said Sueirro.

She got the vaccine about eight months ago and now wonders if she needs a booster shot. While researchers tell us they’re still working on the booster trials, she’s hopeful she can join those, too.

“I would absolutely sign up to get the booster. As a matter of fact I hope that I’m one of the first people in line to get the booster because I’ve been one of the first people to get the COVID vaccine. That would be great!”

One of her concerns is the Delta variant. It’s more infectious and on the rise across the country even making its way to Georgia.

“A key example that I think really drives it home to how much of a risk we are here in Georgia is that in Missouri one of their key cities where they are having an outbreak. The amount of folks that were vaccinated was about 32 percent and we’re not much higher and they have seen a 210 percent increase in the number of their cases since June first likely related to this new variant,” said Dr. Stephen Thacker, Pediatric Infectious Disease at Memorial Health in Savannah.

Thacker says preliminary data out of the United Kingdom shows the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective after two doses against this new variant. He says being fully vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, especially this holiday weekend.

Sueirro says while she waits to learn more about a vaccine booster, she will follow the best public health advice and hopes others get their vaccine to prevent further variants.

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