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Health Experts Say Rise in COVID-19 Delta Variant Behind Increase in Cases in Arkansas

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The more infectious and possibly more dangerous COVID-19 Delta variant is becoming more common in the Mid-South and is causing concern as coronavirus cases rapidly increase in Arkansas.

While the national average of daily COVID-19 cases are steadily decreasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the state of Arkansas is one of only a few states going in the opposite direction.

Health experts say the more infectious and potentially more deadly Delta variant out of India is the cause for the increase.

The Delta variant is now the most dominant variant in Arkansas with 56 percent of sequenced cases identified as a Delta variant case.

“That tells us that the variant is spreading widely and that it’s spreading quickly,” Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Arkansas Department of Health Director of Epidemiology said.

This month, Arkansas has experienced an increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, people who have been put on ventilators and deaths from COVID-19.

The delta variant is especially dangerous to people who have only received one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine or who are un-vaccinated entirely, according to health experts.

“My concern is that if people are not immune to it, then this variant will find them and infect them and cause illness,” Dr. Dillaha said.

“This is the place that a new and more contagious virus will do it’s damage,” said Infectious Disease Specialist for Baptist Memorial Healthcare Dr. Steven Threlkheld.

Dr. Threlkeld says studies show those who are double vaccinated have about 90% immunity to the Delta variant, which is very good.

The problem is Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi are 3 of 6 states with the lowest vaccine rates in the country, leaving the Mid-South vulnerable to a serious Delta variant outbreak.

“We will potentially be taking a bigger brunt in people transferred here with their illness and coming here for their medical care compared to a lot of places in the country,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “If you look at other big cities around the country, none of them, as much as Memphis, are sitting squarely in the kind of the epicenter of the poorly vaccinated group of states.”

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