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Delta variant continues spread across Missouri

(KCTV5 News)
Updated: Jul. 7, 2021 at 5:45 PM CDT
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TEXAS COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - It’s a frightening place to be. Right now, Missouri leads the nation with the most new cases of Covid-19 per capita in the past 14 days. And some health experts are warning it could be getting worse.

The Delta variant is now the predominant strain of the virus. It’s believed that it spreads easier than previous variants. And we know that the Delta virus is now everywhere across Missouri. We know that because of wastewater. Missouri has one of the most sophisticated programs for testing what we flush.

Dr. Marc Johnson is a microbiologist tracking variants through Missouri’s wastewater.

“We get a read out of everyone,” said Johnson. “Anyone who used the toilet, we get a read out of how much Covid in their system. It doesn’t matter if they get tested, if they believe in the vaccine, it doesn’t matter if they have health insurance. They contribute to our signal. So, we get an unbiased and comprehensive readout for our community.”

Johnson confirms what is being reported nationwide—Springfield is the hotspot. But, Dr. Johnson said that’s not where it started. He told us he first saw the Delta variant in Branson, MO, on May 10.

The state is tracking 80 wastewater treatment facilities. Click here to check levels in your area. Johnson says the Alpha variant from the UK is dying out. He said it first hit St. Louis, then spread to rural areas.

The Delta variants’ path is the opposite. It got a foothold in the rural areas and then spread to the bigger cities. So, what does Johnson predict in the near future?

“I expect to see an increase in case rates,” said Johnson. “We see a big increase in Boone county- which has the highest vaccine rate in the state, so I have no reason to think it’s going to be different in other places.”

The prediction is alarming because health experts say the Delta variant is so contagious, Covid-19 cases could more than triple.

“I assume case rates will continue increase in Missouri a few fold,” said Johnson. “If we see increase of five-fold in the county with the highest vaccination rate. I don’t see why different in other locations.”

Physicians at the University of Kansas health system have said that the vaccine does provide protection from serious illness—even with the Delta variant. That means, people may still test positive for Covid-19, but may not exhibit any symptoms, or have mild illness. Relatively few of the system’s hospitalized Covid patients have had the vaccine.

This leads to Johnson’s words of advice.

“If you are vaccinated, that’s great! You can still be smart,” Johnson said. “If you are unvaccinated—go get vaccinated. It can save your life.”