The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 has been discovered in New Jersey, officials said Monday, expressing concerns that millions of the state’s unvaccinated adult residents could be at risk of infection.
The variant that is rampant in some conditions, is still held at a low level in New Jersey.
But Federal officials believe it could become the dominant strain of COVID in the US as early as next month because it spread 40 to 60% more easily than other strains in the UK, where it has infected tens of thousands.
“We cannot allow that here,” said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli at a briefing.
The danger posed by the delta variant lies almost exclusively with the unvaccinated, said Persichilli. A UK study showed that the two-dose Pfizer vaccine was 88% Effective against disease from the variant.
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first discovered in India in December and has spread to at least 80 countries.
The variant accounts for about 10% of infections in the US, although in some states it accounts for over 20% of the coronavirus cases studied, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New Jersey, the Delta variants made up about 7% of all mutations sequenced in the state in the past four weeks, Persichilli said. But only a very small fraction of New Jersey’s positive test results go through genetic sequencing to determine the variant.
Last week, President Biden said he doesn’t think the Delta variant would warrant a large-scale shutdown, as vaccines appear to be effective against it. But communities with low vaccination rates can be affected. “Some areas are very hurt,” he said hey
More than 4.8 million of New Jersey’s 9.2 million residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday. No vaccine has been approved for children under the age of 12, but three COVID vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – are conducting studies in adolescents.
With the upcoming closure of New Jersey’s mega-vaccination sites, health officials are now targeting communities with low vaccination rates. Further doses are sent to doctors’ offices and pharmacies as well as to pop-up clinics at churches and summer festivals.
Although key COVID metrics have slumped in the past few months, the overwhelming number of new cases, hospital admissions, and deaths are among New Jersey’s unvaccinated residents.
Only 0.06% of fully vaccinated New Jersey residents contracted COVID-19.
“If you don’t want to be a number on our dashboard, get out there and get vaccinated,” said Governor Phil Murphy on Monday.
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. For full access to the latest news about how the New Jersey environment is affecting your health and wellbeing, subscribe or activate your digital account today.