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The COVID-19 delta variant is spreading fast: 4 key facts

Health

The COVID-19 delta variant is spreading fast: 4 key facts

A new and highly transmissible mutation of the virus that causes COVID-19 – the so-called delta variant – is spreading rapidly across the U.S., prompting renewed calls for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Although many pre-pandemic activities have started to resume, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 remains a serious health threat,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, our region’s leader in COVID-19 vaccination. “The best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is to be vaccinated.”
The World Health Organization has called delta the “fastest and fittest” of all the variants that have appeared because of its ability to spread quickly. The WHO began naming variants with Greek letters this year to make them easier to identify.
Studies show that unvaccinated people account for about 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Vaccination remains the best protection against the original COVID-19 strain and its variants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There’s no out-of-pocket cost to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is available through Tidelands Health on a walk-in basis at three vaccination sites across our region. Learn more by clicking here.

Here are four key facts to know about the delta variant:

1. It's highly contagious

The delta variant is far more transmissible than the original virus. Delta first appeared in India in late 2020 and caused a wave of deaths in that country this spring. It is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for more than 51 percent of new COVID-19 cases that have been genetically sequenced.

2. Young people are at risk

While previous versions of the COVID-19 coronavirus hit older people hardest, teens and young adults are increasingly becoming infected with the delta variant. Since May, people ages 12-29 have made up one-third of COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Across all ages groups, nearly half the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, which is not enough to create herd immunity against the virus.

3. Children under 12 should still wear masks

With no vaccine authorized for children under 12, the delta variant poses a risk to youngsters. The best protections against contracting the virus are still the simplest: wearing a mask when inside public places and practicing social distancing. Keep in mind that children 2 and under should not wear masks.

3. Local hotspots are possible

Communities with low vaccination rates are leaving themselves open to a concentrated assault by the delta variant. A patchwork of vaccination means the virus can leapfrog the highly vaccinated areas that might otherwise serve as a fire break for the spread for the virus.

4. Vaccines are effective

Studies of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines show they each are effective at fending off the delta variant. For example, the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 88 percent effect at preventing symptoms and 96 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations.
Nationwide, about 55 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But vaccination rates vary greatly by state and locale.
With more than 50 percent of residents having received at least one dose of vaccine, Horry and Georgetown counties are among South Carolina’s leaders in their rates of COVID-19 vaccination. Statewide, approximately 43 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, putting the state at the low end of the national spectrum and among those at risk for a widespread outbreak of the delta variant, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“So far, we’ve been luckier than some states in the Midwest where delta cases are surging,” Dr. Harmon says. “Every South Carolinian who gets vaccinated helps us prevent a similar occurrence here and gets us closer to putting the pandemic behind us.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. Gerald Harmon

Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

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