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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to health officials, the Delta variant is more contagious and more deadly than other COVID-19 variants.

Right now, Missouri is the national hotspot for the Delta variant, and Kansas is bracing for that to spill over the state line.

“The Delta variant is as serious of a situation as we’ve had for some time,” Kansas Chief COVID Advisor Dr. Marci Nielsen said.

She and other health experts say the Delta variant is causing a new wave of infections now responsible for the majority of COVID cases across the country and here at home.

“We right now test every sample that comes back to the state lab that’s positive,” Nielsen said. “If it has enough viral load, then we run a genome sequence on it. And last week when we did that, about 70% were Delta variant. So we know it’s in Kansas.”

According to a COVID risk assessment by The New York Times and Resolve to Save Lives, the risk for infection in unvaccinated people in Kansas isn’t as great as other states. But Nielsen fears it’s just a matter of time.

delta variant map
COVID risk via New York Times

“Look at Missouri and Arkansas, they’re totally blowing up. And that’s where people are going for the Fourth of July,” Nielsen said. “We could potentially be going back in time. We’ve come so far in terms of being able to manage the virus.”

Masking and social distancing are as important now as they were at the height of the pandemic for unvaccinated people.

Hospitals in the metro are seeing an uptick in COVID patients who all have something in common.

“Our current patients who are in the hospital, none of them have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Mark Steele, chief clinical officer of Truman Medical Centers, University Health.

In May, 99.9% of people hospitalized in the United States were not fully vaccinated. That group also accounted for 99.2% of people who died from the virus.

Truman Medical Centers, University Health is full right now, and with the Delta variant coming on strong, Steele is concerned another tidal wave of COVID patients maxing out hospitals across the Kansas City region.

“Fortunately that hasn’t happened,” he said. “But if we continue to see a spike in COVID and if we continue to have patients with other sorts of ailments — we tend to see more falls and injuries and other sorts of things during the summer — we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

COVID vaccines are proving to be very effective against all of the variants, including the Delta variant.