96 Percent of COVID Cases Are Now Caused by the Delta Variant in This State
Almost all new cases in this one state are now the result of the new variant.
Throughout late May and early June, the COVID pandemic appeared to be on its way out of the U.S. But in recent weeks, one thing has started to change that: the Delta variant. The variant of concern, known in the scientific community as B.1.617.2, is rapidly spreading throughout the U.S. after making its way into the country in March 2021, per the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And now that the variant has been detected within every single state, new data shows that the Delta variant is already taking over in some states, including one where it's behind almost all new cases.
According to data compiled by Scripps Research, the Delta variant is causing more than 80 percent of new COVID cases in three different states: Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri. The variant is responsible for 84 percent of cases in Kansas now, and 86 percent in Arkansas. But in Missouri, the Delta variant is responsible for almost all new cases. Of the COVID cases that have been tested for genetic sequencing in Missouri, 96 percent are caused by the Delta variant.
Not only does Missouri have the highest percentage of Delta variant cases in the U.S., but it also leads the country in the most overall new COVID cases per capita over the last two weeks, ABC affiliate KMBC News 9 reported on July 6. The uptick in COVID cases is so drastic in the state that Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has even been forced to borrow ventilators and add a second COVID ICU, the outlet reports. "The uptick [in Missouri] is powered by the Delta variant," Clay Dunagan, MD, chief medical officer at BJC HealthCare, a system serving St. Louis, southern Illinois, and mid-Missouri, told The Wall Street Journal.
Missouri's COVID situation started taking a turn for the worse in mid-June. "What we've got in the community is a much more infectious variant that we are having to deal with, which shows why we have such an explosion of cases," Kendra Findley, administrator of community health and epidemiology with Greene County, Missouri, told the St. Louis Dispatch on June 17.
Steve Edwards, the president and CEO of CoxHealth, a health care system in southwest Missouri, told NPR around that time that they were seeing five times the number of hospitalizations due to COVID, all due to the Delta variant. "They're younger, and they're sicker, and they're coming in later, and there's less we can do for them if they come in later," Edwards said on June 18.
According to the CDC, the Delta variant is more transmissible than other variants and other research has found it may be deadlier, too. A June 24 study from Scotland published in The Lancet found that infections from the Delta variant may double your risk of being hospitalized due to COVID compared to the Alpha variant, the current dominant variant in the U.S. that originated in the U.K., known as B.1.1.7.
It's worth noting that Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri, the states with the highest percentage of cases due to the Delta variant, also have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Missouri has fully vaccinated 39 percent of its population, according to CDC data compiled by Becker's Hospital Review. Kansas has fully vaccinated 42 percent and Arkansas has fully vaccinated 35 percent—making it the third lowest vaccination rate in the country, behind only Alabama and Mississippi.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said on July 1 that the highly contagious Delta variant was accounting for nearly 25 percent of all new COVID infections in the U.S., up from just 6 percent in early June. "Looking across the country we have made incredible progress," Walensky said during a White House COVID press briefing at the start of the month. "However, looking state by state and county by country it is clear communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that are vulnerable. I expect that in the coming weeks the [Delta] variant will eclipse the Alpha variant."
Walensky said that these vulnerable communities are mainly in the Southeast and Midwest, like Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas. "In some of these areas, we are already seeing increasing rates of disease," she said. "As the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, we expect to see increased transmissions in these communities, unless we can vaccinate more people now."