COVID-19 Delta variant becoming more prevalent, local health leaders emphasizing vaccines and mitigations

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Health officials say one in every five new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. is the more contagious Delta variant. Local health leaders have said there are ways to keep the virus at bay, and it’s crucial the community takes the steps to do so.

First recognized in India, health leaders said the COVID-19 Delta variant has been shown to be significantly more transmissible than the original strain.

“This one is said to be about 60% more contagious, which means for every [one] person, you’re going to infect four people,” said Dr. John Miller, UnityPoint Health VP of Medical Affairs.

Experts said as the variant becomes more prevalent, measures to keep the virus away have not been on the same path.

“What’s concerning for us here in the United States is that our vaccination levels are not at a point in some communities that will create enough of a protective factor,” said Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Health Department administrator.

Due to the Delta variant, the World Health Organization recently recommended all individuals continue to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. In response to that guidance, local doctors said vaccination rates of different countries must be kept in mind.

“Unfortunately for a lot of countries, they’ve barely begun their vaccine campaigns so what you do in that country is a lot different than what you’d do in the United States,” Miller said.

Hendrickson is advising all unvaccinated people to wear a mask, but there are cases when those that have already received their shot should do the same.

“If you’re working in higher-risk situations, you’re not sure about your contacts, all of that, you’re going to want to wear a mask,” Hendrickson said.

Health leaders said vaccines remain our biggest tool against variants.

“You’re either going to get the vaccine or you’re going to get the virus, that’s basically what we’re getting down to,” Miller said.

Hendrickson said the Peoria City/County Health Department will continue to make the vaccine accessible.

She said for those who are part a large group or organization, the health department can facilitate bringing the vaccine to them.

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