Delta cases rise, but Covid hospitalizations lag behind

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(ABC 6 News) – We have heard a lot about the rise of the Delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control reports it makes up 93 percent of Covid cases in the United States as of Thursday. But is the Delta variant more deadly than the original strain? And should we be re-imposing Covid restrictions because of it?

It’s true: the number of positive cases is rapidly rising across the country, but local public health experts said not as many people are getting as seriously ill as we saw this time last year.

"The biggest difference is you produce more virus in your nose and throat and we believe that makes it easier to pass from person to person, but we haven’t seen anything to indicate you actually get more sick from it," Olmsted County Public Health director Graham Briggs said.

He said there is no evidence the Delta variant makes people sicker than the original strain of Covid. On top of that, vaccinated Americans are even less likely to show any symptoms at all.

"The vaccine is still very effective at preventing severe disease illness and death, but we are still seeing some people that are fully vaccinated be able to spread this virus to other people who are fully vaccinated in rare situations," Briggs said.

He said there are breakthrough cases, but it is still very rare. The CDC reports breakthrough cases make up less than one percent of positive Covid cases.

"Most people who get vaccinated could be exposed to Covid-19, including the Delta variant, and they won’t get sick at all. They probably can’t transmit this onto anybody else," Briggs said.

But if more than 70 percent of the county is vaccinated and those vaccinated are now protected against severe disease, then why is Olmsted County masking back up?

"One large of the population cant get vaccinated. And that’s children under 12. I think there’s a belief out there that children under 12 cant get this or don’t get sick from it. We do know that children get this and they can get sick from it," Briggs said.

He said we should not look at our current situation as moving backward.

"The hope is that we don’t have to add any more numbers to that tally if we don’t need to. If we’re all working together to protect each other and get through what is hopefully a little ripple and not a major surge," Briggs said.

Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center and local county public health departments said there are fewer Covid hospitalizations right now than we saw this time last year.