COLUMBUS, Ohio — The COVID-19 delta variant is "moving rapidly" to become the most prominent form of the virus across Ohio, state health officials said during a Wednesday morning news conference.
Ohio Department of Health chief medical officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center chief clinical officer Dr. Andrew Thomas addressed reporters at 10 a.m.
Vanderhoff said the delta variant is 50% more contagious than the alpha variant — otherwise known as B.1.1.7 or the so-called "UK" variant — which has been the most prominent strain found in new COVID-19 cases in recent months.
"Delta is here, and it's spreading rapidly," Vanderhoff said.
Ohioans' best defense against the new strain, both health officials agreed, is vaccination.
The chief medical officer said, while the case numbers for the delta variant remain relatively low — similar to what case rates looked like in June 2020 — the trends show the strain is picking up speed in its transmission, especially among those who are unvaccinated.
Thomas said that 60% of Ohioans older than 20 years were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"The power of vaccination is...since April (2021), about 90% of hospital admissions have been only partly vaccinated or unvaccinated," Thomas said.
"We now have two Ohios: those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated and vulnerable to (the) delta (variant)," Vanderhoff added. "Delta is a real threat to unvaccinated Ohioans."
The good news, both doctors emphasized, is that early national data suggest that transmission of the delta strain by vaccinated individuals appears to be low.
"Recent emerging research really tells us that the viral load is really not very high" among those vaccinated individuals who do come into contact and contract the variant, Vanderhoff said. "Even if you're vaccinated and develop mild symptoms, you're much less likely to spread the virus."