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Nation gearing up for ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ as Delta variant continues to spread

Delta variant continues to spread

Every state in the nation has detected the COVID-19 Delta Variant, said to be faster spreading and more deadly, according to a local health advocate.

“Cases are increasing in all states. There’s a new wave, cases are unevenly distributed and are concentrated in the southern states at this time,” Barbara Hemmendinger, a member of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.

Hemmendinger cited a map that paints parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as having a low vaccination rate or high case count of COVID-19 infections.

Event Vermont, the highest vaccinated state in the country, is seeing an increase in COVID cases compared to previous times, Hemmendinger said. She reiterated the concept of exponential increase; that as more infections occur, event more infections will incur, as she reflected on the amount of cases in the United States having doubled in the past two weeks.

According to Hemmendinger, the Delta Variant of COVID-19 has the potential to infect an additional 3-4 people, as opposed to the previously thought 1-2 people the standard strain that swept the nation last year was able to do.

Finally, the United States has crossed the threshold of a 5 percent test positivity rate.

“This is not a good sign, and we’re not even doing a lot of testing which should happen more so people know earlier they are infected,” Hemmendinger said.

“We can still shut down this pandemic within a pandemic by vaccinating people,” Hemmendinger said.

It is not too late, especially in Lycoming County where the Delta Variant has yet to be detected, according to Hemmendinger.

Hemmendinger warned common symptoms being reported in the Delta Variant are different than those in the original strain; whereas before, older symptoms such as a cough, loss of smell are less prominent in the Delta Variant.

Now, more common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, fever, sore throat and a feeling of malaise.

“They still seem like a normal cold, but it could be a COVID infection and the only way to know the difference is to be tested,” Hemmendinger said.

Hemmendinger said the United States has worked hard to decrease the number of hospitalizations in some states. On a few days in the middle of June, she said Pennsylvania even saw no deaths due to the virus, but since then, increases in cases and hospitalizations, and later deaths, a lagging indicator, show a storm is coming.

“Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” Hemmendinger said. “If you are unvaccinated, consider wearing a mask when indoors in public places.”

People who have not been able to be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12 or adults who are unable to get vaccinated due to medical concerns, need to be protected, Hemmendinger said.

That includes school boards who are beginning to make decisions about returning to instruction in the fall.

“It is important for all members of school boards to pay attention to guidance from respected scientific and public health sources about how to manage outbreaks from the Delta Variant as we get to September and the opening of schools,” Hemmendinger said. “Rather than making a priority statement about not requiring masks, it behooves educators to look at the science and see what the numbers are telling us to do at that time.”

According to the CDC, Lycoming County clocks a fully vaccinated rate of 41 percent, which lags behind Union County’s 46 percent as per usual.

Lycoming, Clinton and Union Counties are all marked as having a low transmission rate of the coronavirus–which is far better than significant portions of the state that are listed as having a moderate rate of transmission.

“It is here in Pennsylvania. We have not yet seen the numbers in our counties that are giving the CDC reason to call it moderate yet, which is good,” Hemmendinger said.

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