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Delta variant believed to be dominant COVID-19 strain in Texas, doctor says

The Delta variant is the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S., according to the CDC.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the Delta variant is the dominant strain the U.S. This came after the CDC classified Delta as a "variant of concern."

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported, as of July 6, there were 219 confirmed Delta variant cases in Texas. 

Dr. Rob Watson, the chief medical officer for the Greater Austin Region of Baylor Scott & White, said the data they're following show even more cases. 

"We're up to 407 cases. So far, we've seen about an eightfold increase since the middle part of May," said Watson. "And so I haven't seen numbers on all of Texas because there's places that aren't sequencing the virus, but if you look at just sort of the overall trends across a lot of different states and much of the U.S., there's no reason to believe it's not the dominant variant in Texas." 

Austin Public Health (APH) said there have not been any confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Austin-Travis County. However, APH said, since there have been three confirmed cases in Williamson County, we should assume it's in Austin-Travis County too. 

Tracking every possible case is easier said than done. 

Watson said not everyone is sequencing the positive tests, which is extra testing that lets doctors see the change in viruses and if variants emerge. Watson explained that while Baylor Scott & White is sequencing, not every place that does testing is or has the resources to do so.  

"But as of our last look, it was about two-thirds of the positives we're seeing within our system, again, which is only based on the State of Texas. So those are still small numbers, thankfully," said Watson. "The overall rate of  positivity that we've seen, while it's trending up a little bit, is still much lower than we saw back in times like January. But definitely seeing an uptick in the number of Delta positives and a slight uptick to just the overall number of positive cases." 

KVUE asked Watson if there was a chance Texas could see another summer surge of COVID-19. 

"I think it's still a little bit early to say. We are seeing trends that are concerning, and I think we're all watching those closely. We try not to overreact. But I think if we continue to see a trend upwards, we're going to have to be concerned again," said Watson. 

He pointed to the recommendation that if people are unvaccinated, they should still be wearing masks. 

"We know within the State of Texas, only about 50% of the population is fully vaccinated," he said. "Yet, again, if you go out and look around, I suspect you'll see more than 50% of the people you're surrounded by without masks. And so, I can't stress enough now we've got a more severe variant of COVID than we had in the past, and we've still got a significant portion of the population that are unvaccinated. So if we were all wearing masks, if we were all social distancing, I think we'd have less concern. But 50% of our population getting a more severe version of COVID is something that we have to keep a close eye on."

Watson said the vaccine is still proving to be effective against the Delta variant and suggested those who can should get vaccinated. Watson said if you can't or don't want to, then you should continue to wear a mask. 

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