COLUMBUS, Ohio — The highly contagious delta variant is making an impact on Ohio. That was part of the message as health officials offered a status update on the COVID-19 pandemic during a Wednesday morning press conference.
Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, said preliminary data regarding the delta variant for the June 20 to July 3 time period "is going to be another substantial increase" that's likely more than double the 15 percent rise Ohio experienced the two weeks prior.
“Our current vaccines are effective against the delta variant," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "The bad news is that if you’re not fully vaccinated, you’re at real risk of contracting the delta variant – including real risk for serious illness, including hospitalization and death. Remember, COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable illness and not being fully vaccinated puts you at risk. The best thing any of us can do to protect ourselves and those around us is to choose to be vaccinated.”
Dr. Vanderhoff also outlined the following three key things he wants all Ohioans to know about the delta variant.
#1: Delta is highly contagious
"It spreads exponentially faster almost anywhere it has gone," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "Estimates are that it’s about 50 percent more contagious than alpha, which itself was 50 percent more contagious than the variant which caused our winter surge. As a result, the delta variant is moving rapidly to replace B117 or the alpha variant as our dominant form of COVID-19."
#2: Delta is a real threat to the unvaccinated or those who aren't yet fully vaccinated
"According to the CDC, current data suggests that 99.5 percent of COVID-19 in the United States has occurred among unvaccinated people," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "The experience in the UK also suggests that those who are younger than 50 may now be twice as likely to be infected. Delta is much more likely to cause someone to be hospitalized if they’re unvaccinated than the alpha variant was."
#3: Vaccination remains our best defense
“All three of the vaccines offer very high rates of protection against delta hospitalization and death," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "While, yes, there are potential side effects from vaccination – just like there are from any antibiotic or any medication – those risks are small, indeed, compared with the risks of COVID-19 with people of any age."
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Dr. Vanderhoff said those who aren't vaccinated should continue following the safety precautions we've used since the pandemic began.
"If you are not vaccinated or able to be vaccinated, the safest thing is for you to mask and maximize distance. We were very successful with that here in Ohio with our schools this past winter."
Last week, the Cleveland Clinic told 3News that COVID-19 cases involving the delta variant in Ohio were up to one in five. They also noted how the CDC “has also reported new data in that 30 percent of reported cases in the USA in mid-June were delta.”
Currently, 45.15 percent of Ohioans are fully vaccinated as of the latest data reported by the state on July 13.
It has also been reported that the COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against the delta variant, which the CDC says spreads more easily and quickly, “which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.”