CLEVELAND — Ohio doctors are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is on a trajectory to become the dominant strain in Ohio.
“Based on the trends we're seeing, it's clear that the delta variant is on the rise in Ohio," Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
Data from over the last several months shows the delta variant doesn’t make up a huge portion of all the COVID-19 the Ohio Department of Health has detected, Vanderhoff said. Since January, it only makes up about 1.5% of evaluated samples.
That's going to change.
“If we take a look at a more recent two-week snapshot, we find that the delta variant is, in fact, rapidly increasing and is on a trajectory to become the dominant strain in Ohio," Vanderhoff said. "In recent two weeks snapshots, delta has gone from less than 1% in the May 9 to May 22 two-week interval, to 1.9% May 23 to June 5, and then to 15% June 6 to June 19, which is our most recent fairly complete snapshot. Now, looking at emerging data for the next two-week period, which is June 20 to July 3, which of course is incredibly preliminary, that early data is pointing to another substantial increase."
A national trend
Because the delta variant is new, Vanderhoff said it’s too early to say definitively if the slight uptick in COVID-19 cases is a direct result of the delta variant or a post-holiday bump or both. State health officials are looking at what’s happening in other parts of the country with the delta variant round out the picture.
“But what we can say is this -- look, context matters. And as we are looking around the world and around the country, we're seeing that where delta has gone, delta has driven significant upticks. And we know two things for sure. One, delta is here, and it is rising rapidly," he said.
At the time of the news conference, Vanderhoff did not immediately know how many COVID-19 cases are from the delta variant.
The variant, which has been detected in all 50 states, is estimated to account for more than 50% of new cases in five of the 10 regions in which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services divides the country, according to ABC News.
HHS region 7—compromised of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—had the highest at 80.7%. Vanderhoff said Ohio is in a region of the country that has been slower to see the advance of the delta variant.
“We have the benefit of watching other regions of the country and have a forewarning of what is likely to occur now that we are seeing this very early uptick. It’s all the more reason for us to be aware of what delta has done elsewhere and likely how it will behave here in Ohio, which will move rapidly through the unvaccinated population,” Vanderhoff said.
How delta is different
Health officials and experts have warned that the delta variant is a more infectious version of the disease and poses a particular risk to unvaccinated individuals.
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Andrew Thomas joined the briefing with Vanderhoff and said while the route of transmission is the same, the amount of the virus it takes to infect someone is different.
“The way the virus is transmitted from my mouth or my nose to your mouth or your nose is still the same as it was before. But with the delta variant, the difference for the delta variant is it takes less of the virus going from my mouth or my nose to yours to potentially infect you,” Thomas said.
The best protection
Vanderhoff and Thomas said the delta variant is a real threat to those unvaccinated or those who are not yet fully vaccinated as the variant can much more likely cause someone to become hospitalized if they are unvaccinated.
Ohioans were reminded again that the best protection against the delta variant is through vaccination. Current evidence suggests that the full dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from the delta variant and other strains.
“It’s more important than ever that people make the choice to be vaccinated because it's clear that those who are vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized, suffer from multi-system inflammatory syndrome, become a long hauler or die from COVID-19.
Watch the full conference where Thomas and Vanderhoff discuss the delta variant in the media player below:
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