Michigan health experts concerned about growth of COVID delta variant

‘There will be a variant that will be more transmissible in children. I’m not saying that will happen, but I’m saying the nature is that that could happen.’

As of Friday, July 30, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan has risen to 903,933 and 19,921 deaths.
As of Friday, July 30, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan has risen to 903,933 and 19,921 deaths.

DETROIT – As of Friday, July 30, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan has risen to 903,933 and 19,921 deaths.

July 30, 2021: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 903,933; Death toll now at 19,921

The state is averaging about 750 new cases per day.

The University of Michigan is requiring the COVID vaccine for all students, faculty and staff across its three campuses and Michigan Medicine. Everyone must be vaccinated before the start of the fall term, Aug. 30.

The new coronavirus cases and UM decision comes on the heels of an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document that revealed the delta variant is as contagious as the chicken pox and causes more serious illness than previously thought.

More: COVID data

The CDC does note that the vaccine does protect against the more severe symptoms.

The state of Michigan currently has a 63.5% rate.

Chart: Michigan COVID vaccine coverage

According to Dr. A Oveta Fuller, a virologist and viral pathogen researcher at the University of Michigan, there are four COVID-19 variants of concern and eight others that have already been identified. Fuller said the window to get ahead of the variants is shrinking because COVID is reproducing and taking advantage of the opportunity to change itself to survive.

The most virulent strain is the delta variant.

“We saw delta was about 3% in May in this country,” Fuller said. “And now our numbers are telling us that 80% of the known cases are delta.”

Dr. Fuller sits on the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory board that approved both the Pfizer and Moderna MRNA vaccines and the Johnson & Johnson one-dose for emergency use operation. She said it’s not too late to stop the highly-contagious delta variant.

“We sort of missed our major opportunity to get everybody vaccinated, which would stop replication,” Fuller said. “We still now have to deal with this while we’re still trying to get the level of vaccination up to protect from these changes.”

Fuller said there is urgency that everyone who can get vaccinated must get the shot and that residents should use kind, understanding encouragement to get those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

“It’s our opportunity is to stop replication of coronavirus before it changes so well that it overcomes our current immune protection,” Fuller said.

Another concern is for children under the age of 11 who cannot get vaccinated. Fuller said the virus, in its replication to survive, will go to the easiest host and a variant that changes the outcome for children could be next.

“It will adjust itself to do that. If that’s who is available for it to replicate in, then there will be a variant that will be more transmissible in children,” Fuller said. “I’m not saying that will happen, but I’m saying the nature is that that could happen because that’s it’s like water, right? If you block this route and another route is open, what’s what it’s going to do? It’s going to run into the route is open. That’s nature. That’s what viruses will do as well.”

Fuller said it is up to every adult possible to protect every child, because the virus -- when it replicates to survive -- looks for suitable hosts. So far, the current vaccines are holding against the delta variant, but even people who are fully inoculated can still carry the virus in their nasal passages. Those who are protected can potentially be spreaders of the virus without getting sick themselves. That’s why Dr. Fuller said it’s important to not only get the vaccination if you’re eligible, but to continue wearing the masks even if inoculated.

“Delta has has changed such that when we look at the amount of virus in the nasal passages, there is some virus there for vaccinated people as well as unvaccinated people,” Fuller said.

Inoculating against viruses is not new to humanity. It’s just that this particular virus is, but modern science has a long history of knocking down viruses.

“We want to think these vaccines are just magically wonderful. That if you think about all the things that we are vaccinated against to keep us from infectious diseases that used to kill and maim people, the initial process required fixing the little things that you won’t know until you roll it out,” Dr. Fuller said. “That’s exactly where we are with COVID-19 in the COVID-19 virus in the vaccine.”

Fuller said she remains shocked by the number of people who have chosen to ignore the vaccine as other countries beg for it.

“People are literally dying because they don’t have the protections against disease symptoms and hospitalizations and deaths that are offered to us through the coronavirus vaccines that we have,” Fuller said.

As of Friday, July 30, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan has risen to 903,933 and 19,921 deaths.
As of Friday, July 30, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan has risen to 903,933 and 19,921 deaths.

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About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.