AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Public Health Department has confirmed “a low number” of COVID-19 “Delta” variant cases in the Amarillo area.

APHD Director, Casie Stoughton, said it is no surprise to see variant cases popping up in our area.

“We have been notified of the Delta variant along, with the U.K. variant, the Brazil variant,” Stoughton said on Monday. “So, certainly variants have been expected and are currently here, no real change to the public health response.”

Stoughton did not provide exact figures for the number of Delta cases in our area. She said that was because they are detected by surveillance testing, meaning random samples are sent to the lab to test for variants.

“We know that it’s a low number right now that have been identified as the Delta variant. Right now, the predominant strain is the U.K. variant,” Stoughton said.

Texas Tech Physicians Infectious Disease Specialist, Scott Milton, M.D., also serves as the Amarillo Public Health Authority. He said vaccines recognize and work against these virus variants and they are the best way to stop the spread.

“The best way to prevent the spread of any variant is to reduce the risk that there’s transmission and, and that the virus doesn’t have a chance to replicate,” Dr. Milton said. “It’s just a very good vaccine. It’s very effective. It’s very safe and, and so I’d just like to encourage everybody that’s eligible to try to get vaccinated.”

Stoughton said only about 35% of our population is vaccinated against Covid-19.

“As time goes on, we can certainly expect additional variants. Viruses are very smart and that’s how they stay alive is by changing and so we have to change along with it,” Stoughton said. “And we have to continue along that path of being vaccinated and we have to do that quickly so that we can head them off at the pass.”

Dr. Milton said we are seeing some vaccine reluctance, just like in the rest of the U.S. However, he said most of the severe cases are preventable.

“What we see in the hospitals now, it’s not very many, but, all of those are preventable, you know. Now, they’re all preventable and almost exclusively, it’s individuals who’ve not been vaccinated who end up getting sick and getting hospitalized,” Dr. Milton added.

When asked if the High Plains region could potentially see another surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations due to variants, Dr. Milton said, “I think we’ve vaccinated enough people and there have been enough people who’ve actually gotten infected naturally, that we’re not going to have the kind of November that we did last year.”

The Delta variant of the coronavirus has been reported in more than 80 countries since its first detection in India. According to doctors, it could become the most dominant variant in Texas by the end of the summer.

As in the United Kingdom, White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the US faces possible localized coronavirus surges due to the Delta variant.

“The transmissibility is unquestionably greater,” Fauci said. “It is associated with an increased disease severity as reflected by hospitalization risk.”

The Delta variant is also impacting more kids and teens. Fauci said this variant “is the greatest threat to eliminating the virus in the US.”

Doctors say the vaccine is the best tool we have to fight it, and continue to encourage all who are able to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Further updates on COVID-19 numbers for the High Plains can be found here.

Vaccination resources for the Amarillo area can be found here.