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Delta Variant Causing More Than 90% Of Missouri's COVID Cases, Highest Rate In U.S.

Terry Godfrey, an EMT for the Kansas City Fire Department, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid vaccine at Truman Medical Centers/University Health. While firefighters were not included in the first phase of recommended vaccine priorities at the federal level or in Missouri, some states chose to add them to the front of the line. The variations in the vaccine rollout highlighted what some firefighters call a general lack of understanding of their role in the medical system.
Truman Medical Centers/University Health
Terry Godfrey, an EMT for the Kansas City Fire Department, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid vaccine at Truman Medical Centers/University Health.

Younger children, who cannot yet be vaccinated, are among those who may be more susceptible to the more-contagious variant.

New COVID-19 cases in Missouri have continued to climb over nearly two months, and new surveillance data indicates the delta variant is almost entirely to blame.

The delta variant accounts for more than 90% of all new cases in Missouri, according to the latest surveillance data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, which covers a four-week period ending July 3.

The percentage of delta cases in Missouri was by far the highest among any of the states for which data is available.

Ina new study released Friday,the CDC reported the delta variant is as transmissible as chickenpox, is more likely to cause severe illness than previous COVID-19 strains, and may even be transmitted by people who are already vaccinated.

“It does seem as if vaccinated people are able to replicate the same amount of virus, and it also seems like, from tracing events for cases, that there has been significant spread of the disease even from those vaccinated patients,” said University of Kansas Health System infectious disease specialist Dana Hawkinson on Friday morning, before the CDC data was officially released.

Based on a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts, the CDC's new data has led to updated COVID recommendations, including masks indoors for most fully vaccinated people. Kansas City on Wednesday issueda new mandate requiring all people over the age of 5 to wear masks in indoor public places, regardless of whether they've been vaccinated.

Daily new cases in Missouri have climbed to nearly 2,500, and more than 1,800 patients are being hospitalized for COVID each day.

Although infections and hospitalizations have increased across Missouri, rates remain the highest in the southwest and southern regions. The numbers of COVID patients hospitalized or in intensive care in southwest Missouri well exceeds any other previous point during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Erik Fredrick, tweetedthat 130 COVID patients — including four patients under the age of 10 — were in hospital care.

“100% unvaccinated because they are not eligible.” Fredrick said.

Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield, tweetedthat his hospital had 168 COVID patients on Friday, including two children under the age of 17.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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