GASTONIA, N.C. (News Release) -– After more than a month of low COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, this week Gaston County began to see a rapid acceleration of both as the Delta variant begins to spread in the community.
The Delta variant is now estimated to account for more than four out of every five COVID-19 cases in the United States, and is causing severe disease and death in unvaccinated individuals.
“The Delta variant is much more infectious and transmissible than the original strain,” Gaston County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Tia Robertson said. “The viral load builds up quickly, making it more contagious earlier on in the course of the disease.”
Robertson urged anyone experiencing COVID-like symptoms to get tested at one of the numerous pharmacies, clinics or medical facilities across the county – particularly if they are unvaccinated. Some symptoms with the Delta variant may be more likely than others, with a loss of taste and smell a less common symptom than headaches, runny noses and sore throats, according to data from studies conducted in Great Britain.
In Gaston County the percent positive rate has now surpassed 5 percent for the first time since early May. Indeed, the number of Gaston County residents hospitalized due to COVID has climbed into the double digits for the first time in nearly two months. Additionally, the average age of those hospitalized has been trending younger, thanks in part to higher vaccination percentages among the county’s 65-and-older population.
“More than a year after trials began for COVID vaccinations, we have yet to see significant adverse reactions,” Gaston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Keigher said. “I respect folks’ decisions to not take the vaccine, but I do think there should be more consideration for others. We very well could end up back to where we’re wearing masks again if we don’t put an end to this while we have the chance.”
Public Health Director Steve Eaton said those that are unvaccinated should continue to wear a mask and social distance in public, but encouraged everyone who has not yet gotten a COVID-19 vaccine to do so. Gaston County’s Public Health Department allows for walk-in vaccinations Monday-Friday, and a full list of COVID-19 vaccine providers can be found at GastonSaves.com.
“This is our chance to let people know who have been on the fence about this: Get your vaccine,” Eaton said. “It is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this deadly disease.”
Thirty-six percent of all Gaston County residents are currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For North Carolina as a whole, that number is 46%.