It is that time, West Virginia. Time to shine your light to illuminate the path for others.
The path to health. The path to protecting ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2, which first emerged in India) is now the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S. It went from 10% of the new cases of COVID-19 on June 16 to accounting for 51% of the new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. by July 7.
That is an astounding spread of this variant in a very short time. This is occurring because of its fitness to infect others, compared to previous variants of COVID-19.
Remember, COVID-19 makes mistakes during its replication, resulting in genetic changes in the virus. When these genetic mistakes give the virus a competitive advantage to infect others, we call it a variant.
The Delta variant has outcompeted the Alpha variant in the United Kingdom and now accounts for virtually all new infections. This is really astounding, as the Alpha variant is more than 50% more contagious than the initial virus from Wuhan, China and causes 2.6 times the risk of hospitalizations.
Remember, the Delta variant has an R0 of 5-8 (meaning one person infected with the Delta variant will, on average, infect 5-8 new people that do not have immunity). The initial Wuhan COVID-19 virus had an R0 of ~2.5.
We know that states in the U.S. where the Delta variant is now dominant, like Missouri and Arkansas, are seeing new cases rise, hospitalizations rise and seeing people that have critical illness with this variant rise.
Importantly, we are seeing cases rise in young people. Under 30 years old.
The Delta variant is also much more infectious in children. The U.K. is struggling with this variant, which is infecting children 5-12 and young adults 18-24 at a rate of 5 times that of older citizens.
The difference in this infection rate is largely from the differences in vaccination rates. Older citizens in the U.K. and U.S. have much higher vaccination rates than youth (some of whom are not eligible for the vaccine yet).
New cases of COVID-19 around the U.S. have doubled in the last week versus the week before. We are seeing more Americans hospitalized this week than last. In West Virginia, we are seeing a subtle increase in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator use for COVID-19.
Moreover, today in the U.S., almost 100% of all the deaths from COVID-19 are in those unvaccinated. Partial vaccination (getting one of two Pfizer or Moderna shots) is not sufficient to protect individuals from becoming infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19.
In West Virginia, we still see the Alpha variant as our dominant form of COVID-19, but we know that the Delta variant is silently growing in our state.
We have too many of our residents unvaccinated today.
We see the canary in the mine all over the world and in our country. The Delta variant is a different and much more dangerous virus than we have seen to date.
While this is true, as long as the virus can infect those unvaccinated or partially vaccinated in West Virginia, the U.S. or across the world, we will see even more dangerous and highly mutated forms of COVID-19.
Time to act, and time to act now.
Choose vaccination for yourself. For your vaccine-eligible children and loved ones.
It very well may save your life and the life of many West Virginians.
The time is now and the clock is ticking.