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New COVID-19 variant found in Georgia

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The highly contagious delta variant, first discovered in India, has now been detected in Georgia A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Health confirmed on June 9 that at least 19 people have tested positive for the variant of concern.

On Tuesday, the CDC updated the status of the new variant from an interest to concern after discovering that the delta variant now accounts for 10% of new cases in the United States.

Health officials are stressing the importance of vaccination as new variants spread through Georgia communities.

“It is important for individuals to get vaccinated and go through the full series,” said Michael Hokanson, public information officer and risk communicator for North Central Health District.

“If a person has that first dose of Pfizer or Moderna, they are not going to be fully protected until they have had that second vaccine,” he said.

Recent studies show that all two-dose vaccines are 88% effective against the variant when entirely administered. Vaccine protection falls at least 33% between the first and second dose.

In Baldwin County, 34% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccination.

“We have people that get the first dose and then fall off before the second dose,” Hokanson said.

Fear of the after-effects of the second dose is making some citizens fearful of becoming vaccinated fully.

The delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible than other variants of the virus. Those who have not been vaccinated are especially vulnerable to the virus and new variants. The delta variant also doubles the chances of hospitalization in individuals compared to other variants.

The CDC and health officials do not want people to stress over the new variant but to be aware. “Whenever one of these new variants gains public attention, it serves as a reminder that while vaccines are widely available, the pandemic itself is not over,” Hokanson said.

Hokanson encourages those who are traveling this summer to be cautious. Although the variant was not discovered in Baldwin County, it has been found in several different counties in Georgia. He suggests continuing to wear a mask and social distancing while traveling, even for vaccinated individuals.

Since March of 2020, Baldwin County has seen over 3,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus. For more information about COVID vaccines or to schedule an appointment, visit dph.ga.gov/covid-vaccine.