COVID-19 Delta variant active in Webster County
As viruses continue to circulate among the population, they begin to mutate into different variants. Over the past couple months, researchers, physicians and the general public have watched as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has mutated into a new, more contagious, variant called Delta.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant is the predominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States at this time, and it is twice as contagious as previously seen variants.
“This new Delta variant is highly contagious,” said Kari Prescott, director of the Webster County Health Department. “However, we are not seeing the amount of sickness that we did last fall. There is a high probability that you will be exposed to the Delta variant at some point in the next few months. The vaccination has been shown to be effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization in those who do test positive.”
The Delta variant, unlike the first wave of the virus seen in 2020, seems to affect more of a younger population, according to Dr. Michael Willerth, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge.
The symptoms of COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant are more or less the same, Willerth said — cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, loss of taste or smell, headache, chills, muscle or body aches.
“There’s a few studies showing preliminary data that the symptoms may be more severe than the original variants we began with,” he said.
The CDC has Webster County, as well as most of north central Iowa, designated as counties with a high level of community transmission of the virus.
As of Thursday, there were 96 people in the county with a known COVID-positive test, according to the WCHD.
Willerth said, at this time, the best defense against the Delta variant and serious illness are the three COVID vaccines currently available.
The CDC notes that while the COVID-19 vaccines are “highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant,” they are not 100% effective and some fully-vaccinated people will experience “breakthrough” infections, though those infections are trending less severe than those in unvaccinated populations.
“We are seeing that vaccinated people experience mild symptoms, sometimes no symptoms at all,” Prescott said. “Most of the hospitalizations as of late have been unvaccinated or vaccinated persons who have other health issues.”
Only 47% of the Webster County population eligible to receive one of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Vaccines are available every Tuesday and Friday at the WCHD office, 723 First Ave. S. Call 515-573-4107 to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are also available at UnityPoint Health, Community Health Center of Fort Dodge, Iowa Specialty Clinic, Daniel Pharmacy, HyVee Pharmacy, CVS and Walgreens.
With the first day of school for most kiddos in the region just over a week away, vaccination rates for eligible minors remains relatively low. According to the CDC, only 579 children ages 12-17 in Webster County have been fully vaccinated as of Friday. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized for use in kids as young as 12 years old.
Because of the high rate of contagion of the Delta variant, on July 27, the CDC issued a recommendation that individuals once again wear masks or face coverings while in public indoor spaces in areas of substantial or high transmission, even for those who have been vaccinated.
The WCHD advises anyone who has had a known close exposure to a positive case to be tested, especially if they have young children or are around the elderly. The IDPH has removed its 10-day required isolation for positive cases, but still recommends individuals who test positive to stay home for 10 days.
“We do advise and strongly recommend if you are sick to stay home until symptoms are reduced,” Prescott said. “If you have been running a fever, we recommend being fever-free for 24 hours before returning to work or school.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Webster County has seen 5,690 positive cases. This last week, the county also saw its 100th death attributed to the disease.
Webster County COVID-19 facts
Current number of cases: 96 as of Thursday
Total number of cases since March 2020: 5,690
Deaths since March 2020: 100
Percentage of eligible people who are fully vaccinated: 47 percent