Friday, July 2, 2021

Austin Public Health Monitoring COVID-19 Delta Variant in Central Texas

As new variants continue to emerge, the latest variant, Delta (B.1.617.2), has now been detected in all 50 states, including Texas. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the Delta variant within Travis County, but health professionals say the spread is very likely in our community with confirmed variants in surrounding counties.

The variant is of particular concern to public health officials because it is more transmissible and deadly than the original virus as it has mutated to become more effective at latching onto cells in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests it may have higher transmission than the original virus and cause more severe illness and hospitalization for those who are unvaccinated. APH is currently working with the state health department to expand testing.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are proving effective against the Delta variant, making it unlikely to pose much risk for severe disease or death among individuals who have been fully vaccinated. However, the vaccines are less effective in protecting people who have only had one dose. Johnson & Johnson is still awaiting study results, but there are early indications that it too will provide protection as it has with other variants.

Individuals should complete their vaccination series to ensure the fullest protection. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot for Pfizer and Moderna, and two weeks after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson. Prior to reaching the fully vaccinated status, individuals should continue to wear a mask, watch their distance, and wash hands when out in public.

"Vaccines that are being used in the United States protect from the Delta variant. The World Health Organization recommends  people who are vaccinated wear a mask because, as a global organization, it takes into consideration  the fact that some countries may be using vaccines that do not provide the same level of protection against the delta variant, " said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "We support everyone's decision to wear a mask if they choose as an added layer of protection and will continue to monitor new variants while considering additional recommendations. Ultimately, getting vaccinated and following the three "W's" – wearing masks, watching your distance and washing your hands – is the best way to prevent a surge of new cases."

Continued Efforts in Combatting COVID-19

Hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus have declined dramatically in Travis County due to rigorous action by Austin Public Health, Travis County, and community health partners, coupled with public responsiveness in getting fully vaccinated. According to Texas Department of State Health Services, 69% of Travis County residents 12 years and older have received at least one vaccine, and 60% are fully vaccinated, making it one of the leading counties for vaccination rates.

"Our staff and health professionals across Austin and Travis County have been working tirelessly for 17 months to keep people safe," said Adrienne Sturrup, Interim Austin Public Health Director. "Over 69% of our county has received at least one dose of the vaccine. We urge you to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and our community against this new variant by getting vaccinated."

While the Delta variant could fuel outbreaks, especially in communities where vaccination rates are low, the chances of a major outbreak are unlikely. New variants could cause the pandemic to drag on and pose a risk to people who are not protected by the vaccines.

As a reminder, COVID-19 vaccinations are free, and do not require insurance or identification. Text your zip code to 438829 (822862 for Spanish) to see where the closest vaccination sites are located to your neighborhood. You can also visit Vaccines.gov to help locate COVID-19 vaccine providers in your area.

For additional COVID-19 information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19

For additional information on the Delta Variant, visit the State Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

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