Story at a glance
- Experts say B.1.617.2 is responsible for new cases in Missouri, along with other Midwestern states.
- Low vaccination rates stand to further exacerbate the spread of the delta variant.
- Public health officials are concerned over the strain’s higher rate of transmissibility.
As the delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread throughout the U.S., several states are witnessing a renewed surge in fresh infections and blaming the more contagious strain.
Datasets that chart the emergence of variants in each state corroborate this theory, showing an increase in the prevalence of the delta variant among genomes sampled in Missouri, one of the states seeing a marked increase in new cases over the past two weeks.
“There’s no doubt the virus is increasing in Missouri,” George Turabelidze, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a recent conference. “The delta variant is especially concerning. Compared to other viruses that have emerged before, it seems to be more transmissible.”
Public health data shows about 1,383 new cases as of July 1 in Missouri, which also has a relatively low vaccination rate, with a weekly average of 926 positive cases. The state also has roughly 945 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with one of the highest hospitalization rates in the nation.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Missouri leads the nation in delta variant infections, with the strain composing 29.9 percent of current COVID-19 infections. But other states are also battling the delta variant, denoted scientifically as B.1.617.2, as it shows signs of becoming a dominant variant nationwide.
Trailing Missouri with a high prevalence of the delta variant are fellow midwestern states, as well as states further on the West Coast, including California. Nationally, the delta variant composes an estimated 10 percent of all infections — up from 2.9 percent from data from the end of May.
Public health experts have expressed concern over the spread of the delta variant as vaccination rates begin to plateau and jurisdictions roll back mask guidance and reopen economic and public sectors.
"I'm concerned about the delta variant," US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN on Wednesday. "And I am worried that what we are seeing in terms of a plateauing of cases nationally but also an increase in cases in many small sections of the United States, that that is, in fact, being driven by the delta variant."