The ‘delta’ strain of COVID-19 has begun to flex its muscles in Douglas County.
The delta mutation of the coronavirus, first discovered in India, landed in the U.S. in April, and now accounts for nearly 83% of sequenced cases of the coronavirus in the United States, according to a report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this month.
“Every place it has shown up, (delta) has been the dominant form,” said Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer. “Oregon has been a little late, but there have been several cases here in Douglas County.”
While the delta strain of the COVID-19 virus presents many of the same symptoms of its parent strain, SARS-CoV-2, it has shown itself to be much faster to spread, especially among those who have not received a vaccination against the coronavirus.
“Delta certainly seems to be the most contagious,” Dannenhoffer said. “There are strains from alpha through zeta, but the good news is the vaccines seem to be working against these new variants.”
As Douglas County has seen a spike in cases over the past week — there were 29 new positive tests reported Wednesday alone — Dannenhoffer said that many have been sequence tested to reveal the delta variant.
When the coronavirus was first declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020, many wrote it off as, “It’s just the flu.” More than 600,000 Americans have died from complications directly traced to the coronavirus.
“It’s very different from the flu,” Dannenhoffer said. “It’s a completely different (virus) family. It’s Great Danes and Chihuahuas. This thing started as a mutt, then grew to a Labrador. Genetically, it’s so very different. The mutations are so small, one amino acid at a time with a much shorter incubation period.
“Now, (delta) is a greyhound,” Dannenhoffer said.
“This strain is the ‘best,’ in the worst way,” said Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who helped form the county’s COVID-19 Response Team, which provided daily updates through the end of June. The county now posts recovery team updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“It’s the strongest. It’s better at spreading and more efficient because of its evolution,” Freeman said.
There has also been a significant drop in the average age of those who are now testing positive for COVID-19. During the peak of the pandemic, the average Douglas County resident to test positive was 74 years old. In June, that age had dropped to 47.
“The vaccines have proven to be very, very effective,” Dannenhoffer said. “A lot of our new cases are people who haven’t been vaccinated. Our hospitalizations are largely unvaccinated, younger people.
“To see a day when the people in the hospital are younger than me, that’s tragic.”
COUNTY HAS 38 NEW CASESDouglas County reported nine new positive tests Tuesday and 29 Wednesday in its midweek recovery report. There were 12 county residents receiving hospital care due to COVID-19, nine locally and three out of the area.
The county also announced its 87th death connected to the coronavirus, a 95-year-old woman who tested positive July 13 and died July 20. No further information was available.
The Douglas Public Health Network is monitoring 142 positive patients in isolation and another 144 possible contacts in quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority reported 595 new cases and six deaths Tuesday, followed by 421 new cases and one death Wednesday. Oregon’s death toll due to COVID-19 has climbed to 2,833.