North Dakota’s Department of Health held a virtual town hall Thursday, presenting data about the delta variant, efficacy of vaccines and breakthrough infections. It also announced an update on the COVID-19 online dashboard.
In the roughly hour-long meeting, doctors and public health officials discussed the surge of the delta variant. While North Dakota currently has about the same number of cases this year as last year, variant strands of the virus are a major change.
In the past two weeks, the state saw 159 positive cases of the delta variant.
Experts say those with the variant pass it on to six to eight people on average, a much higher transmission rate than those previously infected.
“For the past few weeks, it’s been all delta in the state of North Dakota, so if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past few weeks, you likely have the delta variant,” North Dakota Department of Health Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell said.
Doctors also explained data from multiple studies showing the vaccine protects most people from infection and even more people from becoming hospitalized.
Although immunity from the vaccine decreases over time, people who are unvaccinated make up the vast majority of the recent positive cases.
Infectious disease doctor Paul Carson says for those hesitant, even just one shot will make a difference.
“If people are very, very nervous or hesitant about the vaccine I encourage them to take at least one dose. You will be among sort of the golden elite of antibody levels. There’s no identified downside to it,” Dr. Carson said.
The health department also announced it will begin reporting breakthrough infections on its COVID-19 dashboard daily. Those are COVID-19 positive cases among people who are fully vaccinated.