MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health officials said they are seriously concerned about the Delta variant of the coronavirus, noting it could easily undo all the progress the area has made over the last few months.
The Delta variant was first detected in India, spread to dozens of countries and has since been added to the CDC’s list of “Variants of Concern”.
To date, there have been 14 confirmed and 10 probable cases of the variant from four unrelated clusters. Health officials said they do not believe the variant has been contained and expect to see more clusters and cases in the coming days.
Based on the current models, more than 50 percent of the new cases in Shelby County could be from this variant by the end of July. By Labor Day, it could account for the vast majority, replacing the U.K. strain as the dominant variant.
Officials believe those who are fully-vaccinated are well protected against the Delta variant.
“Your symptoms and severity of illness is much less,” said Shelby County Health officer Bruce Randolph.
The biggest concern for health officials are those individuals who are not fully vaccinated. The Delta variant is 50 percent more transmissible than the U.K. variant. They warned unvaccinated individuals that if they come into contact with this variant, the likelihood of getting it are very high.
This is why the city says it’s been running campaigns and knocking on thousands of doors to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“We focused last night in the areas of new Chicago, Smoky City, Orange Mound and Glenview,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen.
Right now, about 40 percent of the county has had at least one dose. Progress is happening, but vaccinations aren’t happening as fast as officials would like.
The Delta variant hasn’t upset reopening plans, but experts continue to urge caution.
“The Delta variant could certainly undo the progress we have already made. We’re concerned about that,” said David Sweat, deputy director of the Shelby County Health Department.
Health officials say so far, out of the more than 99,000 COVID cases in Shelby County, 73 were fully-vaccinated people. Thirteen of the 73 went to the hospital, but the majority had very mild symptoms.
The best way to protect against the variant is to get a COVID shot, which is believed to be 88 percent effective against it. Another option is to continue to take precautions like hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.