Highly contagious Delta variant is in Arizona; health experts say numbers could surge

Hospitals in the phoenix area are starting to see an uptick in COVID-19 patients again, after the figures took a nosedive in recent months, and health officials believe the Delta variant of COVID-19 may be playing a role.

"Two weeks ago, we were down to one patient in our organization, and now we’re back up. We're into double digits. We're at 12 this morning within our organization," said Dr. Michael White with Valleywise Health System, on July 1.

Delta variant taking over in Arizona

Genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 cases in Arizona shows the Delta variant is quickly taking over.

"This newer variant, the Delta variant, we didn’t see before May," said Dr. David Engelthaler, Director of TGen North. "Now, it’s probably between 15% to 20% our cases in Arizona that we’re sequencing are the Delta variant."

In May, the Delta variant made up about 3% of all cases.

"We are seeing the Delta variant here in all parts of the state," said Arizona Department of Health Services Director, Dr. Cara Christ.

"We definitely know it's more aggressive than previous variants and perhaps the most dangerous variant we've had so far in this pandemic," said University of Arizona College of Medicine Director, Dr. Shad Marvasti. "Delta variant makes up 21% of all of the cases in the country, and it's doubling every two weeks."

Delta variant described as ‘supercharged’

The Delta variant is up to 60% more contagious than the current dominant strain, and there is a certain group of the population that are catching and spreading it.

"That 20-to-50-year-old range, really, is where we’re seeing the majority of our patients, but the single common factor among these individuals is that they haven’t been vaccinated," aid Dr. White.

The threat of the Delta variant has some health officials rethinking COVID-19 measures, even among vaccinated people.

A new study suggests vaccines like those from Moderna and Pfizer provide long-lasting immunity, but citing the dangers of the Delta variant, the World Health Organization says vaccinated people should continue to wear masks consistently in public spaces where social distancing is not an option.

Meanwhile, just under half of Arizona’s population is fully vaccinated, and as people plan to gather for Fourth of July and to celebrate the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals, doctors encourage people who aren’t vaccinated to take precautions.

"We certainly advocate that people wear masks, our fans do wear masks as they’re coming together in this indoor, not well ventilated environments," said Dr. White.

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