COVID Delta variant is a concern for WC health officials

Bridget Shileny

If you’re still paying attention to the numbers, this will come as no surprise, but COVID cases are once again on the rise statewide and locally. Only two weeks ago, Iowa was averaging 76 new cases per day. As of last week, that number is now around 199 cases per day.

Wright County is seeing its numbers tick up as well. Last week, County Public Health Director Sandy McGrath reported 16 new cases and this week, 14. These might seem like paltry numbers, but in the weeks before that, she was only seeing about 2 to 4 new cases. As of Monday, McGrath said the county sits at 1,900 cases since last March.

McGrath, and other local and national health officials, are concerned about the Delta variant of the COVID virus. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control announced that 83% of new COVID cases are the Delta variant. McGrath noted that the state lab has found in surveillance testing that 85% of cases in Iowa are also that more dangerous variant.

Both McGrath and Iowa Specialty Hospital Doctor Michael McLoughlin say there’s every reason to assume the Delta variant is in Wright County. McLoughlin noted, “It’s becoming clear that it is more transmissible than other local variants we’ve seen previously.” He went on to explain that Delta replicates quickly. Also, this version, the doctor emphasized, seems to result in more virus being present in the upper airway which causes it to be more easily transmittable.

McLoughlin explained that this newer strain of the virus is so tough, we are starting to see it crop up even in people who are fully vaccinated. He added that though it can cause symptomatic illness in vaccinated people, the vaccines are still clearly very effective, noting that the vast majority of those who are falling very ill and those hospitalized have not been vaccinated.

McLoughlin said the bottom line is that “If more people had gotten vaccinated, we wouldn’t see this storming back.” (Wright County sits at about 46% for our vaccination level). He added that before the Delta variant became a problem, the country was succeeding in reaching herd immunity. Now, with the more virulent strain, herd immunity has diminished.

When it comes to the Delta variant, McLoughlin says he is not very worried about anybody who has been vaccinated. He added though, “It’s going to be hard for the unvaccinated to hide from it. Whether its next month or next year, you’ll probably get it.”

When asked about mitigation strategies, McLoughlin and McGrath both say their biggest recommendation is simple: get vaccinated. McLoughlin said it’s a no-brainer for him that those who are able to get vaccinated should. McGrath said that her department would like to get to a 50% county vaccination threshold by next month.

As the school year approaches, McLoughlin predicts that there will be more infections. At the same time, he noted that he still wouldn’t recommend full-scale mask-wearing again in schools. “To me, it is not clear that the benefits of masking will be worth it.” He of course is concerned about those with underlying conditions, but reminded that masks work better on the person transmitting rather than that vulnerable person being exposed.

At the end of the day, since the state legislature says masks can’t be mandatory at schools, McLoughlin said there is probably little point to suggesting them, no matter how strongly. If it’s just about the optics, it’s really not worth the effort, he posited.

Concerning local schools, the Eagle Grove district included in their back-to-school information updated COVID info that noted: “Face Coverings Essential: All students who have not been fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear face masks while in our buildings and on busses.” The Clarion-Goldfield-Dows District elected not to include a mask recommendation since it’s not enforceable at this point.

The COVID vaccine is widely available in Wright County. You can contact Public Health at 515-532-3461 for information, your local pharmacy or Iowa Specialty Hospital clinics (Clarion Clinic: 515-532-2811, Belmond Clinic: 641-444-3500) about scheduling a vaccination.


The Eagle Grove Eagle

The Eagle Grove Eagle
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Eagle Grove, IA 50533
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