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New COVID-19 variant raising concerns

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VIGO COUNTY, IND. (WTHI) -- Vigo County remains in the blue with COVID-19 case numbers. But officials want community members to remain vigilant as a new variant is picking up steam. 

The Delta variant is now present in at least 42 states, including both Illinois and Indiana. The CDC officially declared it as a variant of concern late last week. Officials say there are several reasons that make this variant more of a concern than others.

"Not only is it more infectious than the other strains, but it will hop from person to person a lot more easily, particularly in households," Dr. Brucken, the Vigo County Health Commissioner, said. "It has the chance of causing more severe disease. And it has the highest likelihood of being able to evade some of the vaccines."

As the Delta variant continues to spread, health officials believe this will become the dominant strain in the United States sometime this summer. The rapid spread of this variant is coming at a time when local hospitalizations are starting to slowly rise. Dr. Brucken says both Terre Haute Regional Hospital and Union Hospital saw an uptick in Emergency Room visits last week. He says most of these hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people, which he says are much more likely to catch this variant.

"The most important thing is, it all hinges on the question of whether or not you are vaccinated," Dr. Brucken said. "We have seen 99.2% of hospitalizations in the state of Indiana since May 1 for COVID-related illnesses are in unvaccinated people."

Dr. Brucken wants to remind community members that as society continues to open up and restrictions are lifted, this does not mean the virus has disappeared.

“Nobody wants to hear, 'Wear your mask,' but the pandemic is not over," he said. "We want to celebrate, but it is absolutely not behind us.”

For more information on COVID-19 variants, visit the CDC's website by clicking here.

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