Courtesy Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
As our nation celebrates Independence Day this weekend, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reminds Missourians that the battle against COVID-19 continues. Deemed highly transmissible, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is projected to become dominant worldwide and is likely already the dominant variant in Missouri after making its first confirmed entry into the state two months ago. It is also causing more serious illness and hospitalizations among those who have not been vaccinated.
“As you gather with friends and family for Independence Day, please take adequate precautions to reduce the risk of this highly transmissible variant,” said DHSS Acting Director, Robert Knodell. “COVID-19 is now preventable due to proven success seen with the vaccines. Vaccination is our best chance at moving past the pandemic.”
The primary target for the Delta variant and other variants is unvaccinated individuals. Recent data from the United Kingdom. have shown the mRNA vaccines can be used to fight back against the Delta variant. In fact, data show that when it comes to the Delta variant specifically, the mRNA vaccines developed for COVID-19 were shown to be nearly 90% effective against symptomatic disease and 96% effective against hospitalization. The Delta variant is substantially more transmissible than what’s been seen in past months – 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that was first discovered in the U.K.
“The Delta variant is also impacting young people in a way that previous variants have not,” said Knodell. “It is wrong to think that only the elderly and those with compromised immune systems need the vaccination. The virus has changed since the early days of the pandemic.”
In addition to vaccination, testing remains a key tool to keeping Missourians safe. Testing options are widely available and accessible. In addition to community testing events and options through local health care providers and pharmacies, DHSS also now offers free at-home testing kits for Missourians. These kits are ordered online and delivered to the individual’s home in two days and are good for use anytime up to 6 months. It is strongly recommended that one who is exposed to COVID-19 or has related symptoms be tested. Additionally, those who may be interacting with vulnerable populations or large crowds should seek regular testing. Because individuals can have the virus and transmit it without having symptoms, symptoms do not need to be present to obtain testing.
Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, DHSS has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local partners to address COVID-19. The CDC and their associated Foundation offered to recruit and hire surge teams of public health professionals to assist throughout Missouri in mitigation efforts during this time of increased viral activity. DHSS has accepted this assistance, and formation of the teams will begin next week. The teams will be made up of health and logistics experts from federal agencies and will conduct testing, distribute medicines designed to fight the virus, and boost local and state efforts to increase vaccinations.
Members of the surge teams will include an epidemiologist, research assistants, a health communication specialist, contact tracers and others who will support immunization and outreach efforts. More specific details of this collaboration are still being finalized.
Those who have not been vaccinated are encouraged to get the facts about vaccines at MOStopsCovid.com/facts. Getting vaccinated is important for not only protecting yourself, but for protecting those around you.
Those who choose not to get vaccinated should take these important public health steps:
- Maintain no less than six feet distance from others;
- Wear a mask when appropriate;
- Avoid others that appear to be sick;
- Avoid others if you are demonstrating COVID symptoms;
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissues; and
- Wash your hands.
Tips for unvaccinated individuals to safely enjoy the holiday weekend can be found on the CDC website.