While federal officials are sounding alarm bells about the Delta variant of coronavirus, officials in Chicago say that other strains of the virus have caused significantly more cases of COVID in the area.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, has only caused around one dozen cases of the virus in the city of Chicago.
Officials at the federal level say that they are aiming to get more Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible so that the Delta variant can’t gain more of a foothold in the United States.
“In the UK, the Delta variant is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant. It is replacing the B.1.1.7 (strain),” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”
The Delta variant has accounted for more than 60% of all new cases in the United Kingdom in recent months, according to researchers. The variant is also largely responsible for a massive spike in infections and deaths in India, clogging hospital systems and stretching health care workers to the breaking point.
Fauci and other officials say that particular variant is more contagious than others, and may be associated with a higher risk of hospitalization than previous strains of the virus.
Coronavirus vaccines have been found to be largely effective against Delta and other strains of the virus, but Fauci and other experts say that it is critical to get both doses of available two-dose vaccines. Studies by the National Institutes of Health suggest that one dose of COVID vaccine is only 33% effective against the Delta variant, but two doses of the Pfizer vaccine elevate that efficacy rate to 88%, according to researchers.
Arwady has pointed to similar statistics in advocating for residents to get their COVID shots, saying they are the best way to prevent variants from taking hold in the Chicago area and in other communities across the country.
“All three of our existing authorized COVID vaccines in the US continue to be broadly protective against all of the known variants, and so we are doing a lot of monitoring for variants,” she said.
The Biden administration has laid out a goal of administering at least one vaccine shot to 70% of Americans by July 4. Currently, 63.7% of the population has received at least one shot, and 53% of all adults in the US are fully vaccinated.