The more-infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus is having an impact on the area, as COVID-19 cases are beginning to spike again, according to Mobile County Health Department Epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree.
The latest spike, which resulted in as many as 52 hospitalizations on July 13, has been caused by low vaccine coverage and a loosening of social distancing and mask mandates, Murphree said.
“The Delta variant is 50 percent more infectious than the Alpha variant,” she said. “We’ve been having outbreaks all over town. We’ve already seen more than 100 cases over three consecutive days and it could be as many as 200 or 300 per day, like what we were seeing in January.”
Only a third of Mobile County residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For folks under 50 years of age, the vaccination rate is between 20 percent and 25 percent.
“They’re the ones who are getting infected, have mild illness and go out there spreading the virus,” Murphree said.
While the hospitalization numbers may seem low, Murphree said a hospital visit is a “traumatic” experience for anyone and can result in financial hardship due to missed work and other issues.
The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths from this new spike are among those who are not vaccinated, Murphree said. A statement from the Alabama Department of Public Health confirms this, stating that more than 96 percent of hospitalizations come from those who have not been vaccinated.
“COVID-19 vaccines are our best defense in preventing serious disease as well as deaths, and this is especially important as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in the statement. “While it is possible to get any strain of the virus, infected people are much less likely to experience complications or hospitalizations if fully vaccinated.”
The longer the area goes without reaching a 70 percent vaccine threshold, Murphree said, the more likely it is for the virus to spread more quickly and create more variants.
“Viruses adapt as they go along,” she said. “They get better at infecting us as they jump from person to person.”
With herd immunity estimated to be achieved once 70 percent of the population is vaccinated, Murphree said, the number of individuals a patient can infect at any given time sees a sharp decline.
“The target is 70 percent,” she said. “If we can get to 70 percent we’ll be in good shape.”
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