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COVID cases on the rise as Delta variant becomes the dominant strain

In areas with low vaccination rates, the Delta variant is spreading quickly.

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[KIRKLAND, Wash.] – (MTN) Health officials are increasingly concerned as the COVID Delta variant takes advantage of low vaccination rates in rural areas and communities with vaccine hesitancy. In Washington state, Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla counties have some of the highest COVID positivity rates in the country. Only three Washington counties, San Juan, Island, and Wahkiakum, have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people. In King County, new cases are creeping up.

The Delta variant emerged in Indian and has quickly spread through Europe and North America as the new dominant strain. Delta is more transmissible than the B.1.1.7 variant, or “UK” variant, and initial symptoms closely resemble RSV, a common virus. People infected with Delta are not reporting a loss of taste and smell, a red flag that is common with other COVID strains.

An area of particular concern is people who have opted not to receive their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. In Washington state, up to 125,000 people have had their initial dose, but not their second. Not everyone in that group has decided not to get the second injection. Incomplete vaccinations provide less protection, but even more so with Delta.

In areas with low overall vaccination rates, Delta is dramatically increasing case numbers and hospitalizations. In southern Missouri, hospitals are overwhelmed with more patients than during the coronavirus peak over the winter, and officials searched for ventilators.

Depending on the state, 96% to 99% of people hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 99 percent of people who died from COVID-19 in June were not vaccinated.

Within Washington state, data is mixed. The positivity rate for COVID testing is 2.8%, indicating an appropriate level of testing. According to the most recent data, ICUs remain over 80% occupied. The number of COVID patients is low, with 370 in acute care and 80 in ICU.

A 2.8% positivity rate is a significant accomplishment from the spring; however, it has increased almost 50% in the past two weeks.

Governor Jay Inslee set a goal of 70% of Washington state residents 16 years and older vaccinated. The state is just under that goal at 69.8%. A lottery that included hundreds of prizes concludes today. The winner of the one-million-dollar grand prize is notified. Pundits consider the lottery a flop as it did little to move vaccination rates higher.

King County Health is continuing COVID vaccine outreach and providing transportation and childcare. You can visit the King County website to learn how to get vaccinated.

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