Local and state health officials urge Iowans to get vaccinated as Delta variant gains strength

Through the University of Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed the presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Iowa on May 4.


Jeff Sigmund

UI students given first round of vaccinations on Thursday, Jan 28, 2021. Syringes wait to be used. Each has the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in it.

Jake Olson, News Reporter

While the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases has managed to stay in the single digitals in Johnson County since mid-May, the COVID-19 Delta variant has been on the rise in Iowa since it was detected by the State Hygienic Lab on May 4.

“The IDPH confirmed the presence of the Delta variant in Iowa on May 4 through sequencing performed at the State Hygienic Lab. The proportion of the Delta variant compared to other variants of the SARS-COV-2 has steadily increased since,” Michael Pentella, the director of the University of Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory, said.

What makes this variant particularly concerning to health officials, he said, is that it is more transmissible from person to person than the original strain of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is a dangerous viral infection,” Pentella said. “Delta strain is more easily transmitted from person to person.”

On Tuesday,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared new guidelines in response to a rise in delta variant cases. The CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in a public indoor setting if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission and get tested if experiencing symptoms.

Johnson County is currently experiencing moderate transmission, according to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker. 

Infections from the Delta variant of vaccinated people happen in small proportions and tend to be very mild. Preliminary studies have shown that people who are fully vaccinated can still spread the Delta variant, according to the CDC.

Gov. Kim Reynolds responded to the new guidelines on Tuesday. In a statement, Reynolds said she is concerned that the new guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, which she does not support.

“I am proud that we recently put new laws in place that will protect Iowans against unnecessary government mandates in our schools and local governments. As I have throughout this pandemic, I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Reynolds said in a statement.

Johnson County Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis said the Iowa Department of Public Health has determined that vaccines available in the U.S. are effective against the Delta variant.

“The pandemic is certainly not over,” Jarvis said. “It has been several long months and almost a year and a half here in Johnson County. We know that vaccination rates are not as high as we would like to see them.”

Sarah Ekstrand, public information officer at Iowa Department of Public Health, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the vaccine is the key to reduce the virus’ activity, save lives, and keep Iowa’s healthcare resources available for all Iowans’ needs.

“We currently have a multi-media campaign in place stressing the importance of Iowans getting themselves and their eligible family members vaccinated,” Ekstrand said.

Johnson County is the leading county in the state with 79.8 percent of people over 26 being fully vaccinated.

Jarvis said the county recognizes that only a portion of the community is vaccinated, and would like to see everyone vaccinated.

“We know there is a part of the population that can’t be vaccinated,” Jarvis said. “We recognize that not everyone chooses to be vaccinated.”

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