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Health officials sound the alarm on delta variant, Covid-19 infections ‘now going in the wrong direction’

The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has been climbing for six days in a row, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. Even if vaccination rates continue, Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine believes the Delta strain will make achieving herd immunity much more challenging in the United States. (Photo credit: Umair Irfa)

Local officials are raising concerns about a spike in Covid-19 infections as the country prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, which many believed would signal the beginning of the return to normalcy.

Cases are on the rise in Arkansas, which has one of the lowest immunization rates in the country, according to authorities. Officials in Los Angeles County, where the vaccination rate is somewhat higher than the national average, warned of a potential new wave of illnesses, especially given the Delta variant’s fast spread.

“We are now going in the wrong direction yet again with Covid-19 infections here in the state of Arkansas,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, during the state’s weekly briefing Tuesday.

“With July 4th holiday coming up and eventually kids going back to school, we have to be concerned that this would be a trend that could continue. And if it does, it would appear that we may be in the beginning of the third surge of Covid-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” he said.

During the meeting, Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated that more than 90% of active virus infections are caused by persons who have not been vaccinated. Since late January, the state has had 988 Covid-19 deaths, with 99.6% of individuals who died not having been vaccinated, according to Hutchinson.

Over 98 percent of individuals hospitalized with Covid-19 within the same time period were not immunized. According to government data, Arkansas has completely immunized 34.3 percent of its overall population.

“The vaccine, as well as continued practicing of social distancing and masking when that is necessary, are our pathways out of a third surge of Covid-19,” Patterson said.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has been rising for six days in a row. The seven-day moving average of new cases, which stands at little over 12,700 per day as of Thursday, was up 9.08% over the previous week.

“Looking state by state and county by county, it is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday. “This is all true as we monitor the continued spread of the hyper-transmissible Delta variant.”

According to CDC figures, two-thirds of people in the United States have taken at least one dose of the vaccine as of Thursday. An average of 661,795 people were completely immunized each day during the last week.

Even if immunizations continue, Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that the Delta strain might make it more difficult for the US to achieve herd immunity.

“We don’t exactly know what the herd immunity percentage would be for Covid-19. It would be different for the Delta variant, and higher, because it is more transmissible,” Levine told CNN’s Ana Cabrera.

According to the CDC’s findings, the Delta strain, which was initially identified in India, has already spread to all 50 states and accounted for more than 26% of cases as of June 19. Vaccinated people are protected against the variation, Levine noted, emphasizing that vaccinated individuals are “extremely unlikely to get sick” and that it would be “virtually impossible for them to require hospitalizations.”

“For people who are unvaccinated, the Delta variant poses a threat,” she said. “So in areas that have low vaccination rates, those communities and counties and states are vulnerable.”

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