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Pima County health officials concerned about delta variant

A case has been discovered but they expect more
There is growing concern over COVID-19 delta variant.
There is growing concern over COVID-19 delta variant.(WECT)
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 9:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As the nation begins to crawl out from under the coronavirus pandemic, a new concern has emerged over the delta variant, a high transmissible and more dangerous variant.

It began in India and has spread, slowing down the reopening in the UK and now threatens to become the dominant variant in the United States.

Dozens of cases have been discovered in Arizona but some experts expect in could already be in the hundreds.

The good news is the vaccines work well against the variant. The bad news is that only about half the Arizona residents have been fully vaccinated.

“Almost 50% of the people 18 and over have not been immunized,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County Health Director. “Am I concerned that group could result in a fourth wave? I’m highly concerned about that.”

For months now, health officials have been warning the sharp drop-off in vaccinations would allow the virus to spread but also concerning is that it gives the virus the ability to mutate or become stronger.

“Remember the virus goal is to stay alive,” Cullen said. “The way it stays alive is by infecting people.”

It’s also why the Department of Health and Human Services has issued warnings to states which have a large number of unvaccinated residents, like Arizona.

“This is the virus’ job,” said Loyce Pace, the Director of Global Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services. “It continues, gets smarter and works harder to beat us.”

Pace says it’s “disconcerting for us who are tracking the science of all this to see it double in a matter of weeks.”

The delta variant she said started in India but has quickly spread globally and “is really effective about doing its job of causing death and disease.”

She said, as Dr. Cullen did, that the best way to stop the spread is through vaccination.

There were 626 new cases in Arizona Thursday, June 24, and according to the Arizona Department of Health, 95% of those are in people who are not fully vaccinated. That gives the virus room to grow.

“The virus will continue to try to outsmart the human, which is its host,” Cullen said. “So the goal for us is to be smarter than the virus and that’s to get vaccinated.”

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