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Kalamazoo County health officials say context is important when talking about COVID-19 delta variant

Delta Variant - COVID-19
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jun 29, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The COVID-19 delta variant has made its way to West Michigan.

Last week, one case was identified in Ottawa County. Then Monday, another one in Kalamazoo County.

Kalamazoo County's Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton said context is extremely important when discussing the delta variant.

While it was expected this variant would reach West Michigan, he said case rates, test positivity rates and vaccination rates play a big role in how it will impact the community.

"This is what viruses do. It is expected that viruses will change over time as they grow as there is more opportunity for more people to be infected, that is when the viruses change," said Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department's Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton.

The COVID-19 delta variant that was first identified in India has made its way to West Michigan.

Only a handful of cases have been identified so far, but Dr. Nettleton said the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention predicted the delta variant will become the prominent strain.

"These are known as variants of concern which means they have the potential to be more transmissible or more easily spread, or they may cause more severe disease. So, we are learning about the Delta variant as being more transmissible and perhaps having more serious disease," said Dr. Nettleton.

Kalamazoo County is handling it well with a total of only two cases per 100,000 residents and a percent positivity rate of 1.6%.

Those numbers are what Dr. Nettleton is asking people to remember when hearing about the Delta variant.

While this variant is not high risk, there is still risk that exists.

"In this case, this was actually an elderly person who had multiple medical conditions, who actually was fully vaccinated. The person did not end up in the intensive care unit, and actually was able to leave the hospital," said Dr. Nettleton.

Dr. Nettleton said this is what they call a "breakthrough" case, and why he said vaccinations are still extremely important.

"They are very rare, but they are also expected to occur sometimes. The point of vaccinations is to prevent hospitalization, to prevent death, and also to prevent the spread of disease," said Dr. Nettleton.

In Kalamazoo County, around 60% of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Somewhere around 56% has been fully vaccinated.