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Delta variant is ‘coronavirus on steroids’, former WH adviser says as it sweeps through Kansas and Missouri

·4-min read
A person takes a picture at the “Naming the Lost Memorials” installation to remember the lives lost due to the coronavirus pandemic at The Green-Wood Cemetery on 11 June 2021 in New York City (AFP via Getty Images)
A person takes a picture at the “Naming the Lost Memorials” installation to remember the lives lost due to the coronavirus pandemic at The Green-Wood Cemetery on 11 June 2021 in New York City (AFP via Getty Images)

A former White House adviser has described the Delta variant as “coronavirus on steroids” as cases of the strain hit rural Kansas and Mississippi.

Former White House senior adviser for the administration’s coronavirus response, Andy Slavitt, made the worrying analogy in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday.

“Look, I think we should think of this as Covid on steroids,” he said. “Before, you walked into a room it took you 10 minutes to get exposed to Covid now you could get exposed in something like five minutes.”

The former White House adviser said that those who “haven’t been vaccinated should be worried” about the emerging strain.

“If you have been vaccinated … you should feel good and you should feel safe about the Delta variant and feel fortunate that unlike the rest of the world we have abundant vaccine supplies here,” he said.

The remarks come as cases of the variant are escalating in the country, with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having warned that it could soon become the dominant strain in the United States.

"I think that that’s probably going to be the case," Dr Rochelle Walensky told ABC News in an interview on Good Morning America on Friday.

Currently, the variant, also known as B16172, accounts for 10 per cent of all new cases in the US, up from 6 per cent last week, CNBC reported.

Generally, infection rates have dropped to low levels across the US in recent weeks, with a number of states such as New York and Michigan deciding to fully reopen their economies.

However, experts have warned that the Delta variant could be poised to undo progress to suppress infections, with such trends already being seen across the Atlantic in places such as the United Kingdom.

The variant, which was first detected in India, has now been ruled a variant of concern by the CDC and is thought to be between 40 per cent and 80 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant strain in the US known as Alpha.

Health officials continue to stress the importance of vaccines, with two doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs thought to remain highly effective against the new strain.

As of Sunday, more than 177 million people, or 53.2 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccination across the US, while 44.9 per cent have had two doses, the CDC says.

The importance of vaccines is becoming more obvious as the Delta variant causes an uptick in infections in certain rural US states including Missouri and Kansas, ABC News reports.

The latest CDC data show that Missouri has the highest percentage of the Delta variant at 6.8 per cent.

The state has also recorded the most Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, according to data from The New York Times.

Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) put out a press release on Thursday urging people to get vaccinated against the disease.

“Our greatest concern in Missouri is areas with lower vaccine uptake,” said Robert Knodell, Acting Director of the DHSS.

He added: “With this variant being easier to spread and possibly causing more severe illnesses among unvaccinated people of all ages, vaccinations are the best way to stop this virus in its tracks.”

Areas of rural Kansas with lower vaccination uptake are also struggling to control the Delta variant, KMBC reports.

"We’re seeing now, kind of an uprise in our critically ill Covid-19 positive patients," Amanda Cackler, director of quality and safety at the University of Kansas Health System told the broadcaster.

"Our biggest concern really is that we’re running out of arms, and so it’s really trying to get folks in situations where they can get their vaccine because we have plenty of inventory," Ms Cackler said.

In Missouri, 43.5 people have had at least one coronavirus vaccination, while in Kansas that number sits at 43.6 per cent. Over 600,000 people have died as a result of the virus in the US.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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