GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Health leaders are bracing for new COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.
“The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, in a White House briefing about COVID-19 on Tuesday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.6 percent of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. are the dangerous and highly-contagious variant. The number of new cases is double the amount two weeks ago.
“I think we’ll have COVID in our communities for the foreseeable future, if not forever,” said Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease expert with Novant Health. “In the weeks and months ahead is pockets of outbreaks of COVID likely related to Delta variants in parts of our communities.”
Areas with low vaccination rates and congregate settings are most at risk. It also includes young children who are not eligible to get a shot.
“There’s some concern that variant could spread in schools in the fall,” Priest said. “That remains to be seen.”
Another major concern is how quickly the Delta variant spreads, much faster than others.
“The transmissibility is unquestionably greater than the wild type of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the Alpha variant,” Fauci said. “It is associated with an increased disease severity as reflected by hospitalization risk.”
Fauci has kept a close eye on the increased number of cases in the United Kingdom. He said the U.S. is not far behind.
“Look at how the Delta in red completely again to dominate the isolates throughout the U.K. to the point where it’s well over 95 percent now,” he said.
He said younger people helped the Delta variant become dominant overseas.
“Youth were driving the U.K. surge with a fivefold higher positivity among children 5-to-12 and young adults 18-to-24 versus people older than 65-years-old,” Fauci said.
Existing COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective against the variant. Fauci said getting the shot is the best chance to avoid infection, hospitalization, and death.
According to the CDC, the more people who get vaccinated the less likely the variant will spread.
“This variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccine,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC. “That’s why it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated now to stop the chain of infection, the change of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant.”
Health directors across the Piedmont Triad told FOX8 they were not aware of a Delta variant case in their county, but will be watching closely.