AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Delta variant of COVID-19 is on track to take over as the dominant variant in Texas by the end of summer.
It’s more dangerous and more contagious than the current dominant variant, Dr. Rodney Young with Texas Tech Physicians explained Wednesday.
“It appears to be something like 60% more transmissible than the UK variant we were talking about, which was already more transmissible than the original COVID variant,” Dr. Young said.
He said the variant is accelerating across the country. The new variant only accounts for about 6% of active COVID-19 cases right now in Texas, but that’s expected to change in the coming weeks.
“20% of new cases in the US are this Delta variant. It’s not going to be long, it’s going to be measured in weeks to a month or two before we’re talking about Delta as the predominant strain,” Dr. Young said people shouldn’t be letting their guards down just yet, even though life is beginning to return to normal.
Austinite Lisa Harris heeds that warning after her fully-vaccinated dad, Ken, got COVID-19 this week.
“He’s been fully vaccinated since mid March. So it was a bit of a surprise to all of us,” Harris explained her dad went to the doctor, thinking he just had a bad cold, “Sure enough, his COVID test results came back positive.”
“It’s been a really big lesson to our family that there is still a risk, and we still need to be careful,” Harris said.
Doctors say the vaccine is the best tool we have to fight it, but right now, only 48% of Texans 12 years old and up are fully vaccinated. That could lead to major problems when kids head back to school this fall.
“It will take over as the dominant circulating strain for the COVID infection. And that will coincide with this period of time when we’re starting to get kids back in schools. When you pair that with the fact that kids don’t appear to have an inherent age-related protection from the ability to acquire and transmit this virus, that could pose a significant threat to all of us, because every year when kids get back in schools, things start to spread,” Dr. Young explained.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said it’s closely tracking the variant.
“We will continue to see more of those Delta variant cases in Texas, because it’s spread so much more easily,” DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen explained the variant is another reason Texans should get the vaccine.
“The vaccines still seem to be very, very effective against it,” Van Deusen said.
Even if it doesn’t fully prevent infection, the vaccine still provides an extra layer of protection against the severity of the disease. Harris said she fears her dad would have faced much more severe symptoms if he had not been vaccinated.
“I think had he not been vaccinated, given how fast the cough progressed, and how severe his fever was, even on medication, he probably absolutely would have faced hospitalization,” Harris explained.
Dr. Ogechika Alozie, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force, said vaccine efforts need to be adjusted to reach those who have still not gotten the shot.
“We’ve focused on hospitals, we’ve focused on community health centers, I think those are critical. But now we just have to do different things to get people vaccinated,” Dr. Alozie said.
“Have you gotten a mobile van? Have you provided a way for those people that are getting paid hourly to have PTO or be able to get vaccinated easily?” Dr. Alozie said vaccine efforts should now be focused on getting out into the community.
“Unfortunately, a lot of those are communities of color, where they just haven’t had the same access. And so online isn’t going to work. Putting in a hospital isn’t going to work, we’re going to have to make it as easy as it is to find groceries as it is to go pay a bill,” Dr. Alozie said.