AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Local health officials are concerned about the highly transmissible delta variant and how it’s spreading, especially as CDC data show much of the Panhandle as an area of high covid-19 transmission and vaccination rates remain low.
“We’re watching and learning from this as we go along but we do know that delta transmissibility is quite severe,” Dr. Rodney Young, the Regional Chair of Family and Community Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said on Friday. “It appears to produce more severe symptoms, it can be more lethal.”
Dr. Young said as the variant adapts and flourishes in our population, it can mean a dangerous situation for everyone, including vaccinated people.
“So that’s why we’re seeing rising case loads, rising infection numbers, rising hospitalizations, and in the very near future, we will be seeing the rising numbers of deaths associated with this,” said Dr. Young.
According to Dr. Young, measurements of viral loads for the delta variant show it is more easily transmitted.
“They can see that it rises to high levels and even high levels in people that were vaccinated and don’t know they’re infected,” he continued. “So, that’s what’s raising this concern about the transmissibility and how asymptomatic transmission can be especially concerning.”
Dr. Young said the Panhandle area’s vaccination remains low, which is especially problematic as the delta variant circulates.
Chief Medical Officer at Northwest Texas Hospital, Dr. Brian Weis, said they had one person showing the delta variant back on March 31. Then, nothing until they got two delta cases in the third week of June.
“Since then, well over 70% of the cases at Northwest have been due to the Delta variant. So, this really seems to be the major threat,” said Dr. Weis. “Here’s what we do know, that people can get the Delta variant despite the vaccines, but there still is a protective effect of these vaccines.”
Both doctors agree—vaccinations need to increase locally.
“The vaccine is still our number one tool for defense against COVID, whether its original COVID, infection, delta or the other variants,” said Dr. Young.
Dr. Weis continued, “I do recommend please consider getting the vaccine that’s our best way of trying to stop this virus, stop these variants.”
Dr. Young also said being vaccinated doesn’t give us a permission slip to avoid public health practices.
“We need to be more thoughtful about the masks, the distance, even for the vaccinated. As the prevalence of delta rises within our community, and nationwide, the risk of transmission is going to go up. So if that goes up, I don’t expect that we have seen the peak of what we’re going to see in terms of a rise in hospitalization rates.”