The first lab-confirmed case of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been discovered in Twin Falls County, the South Central Public Health District said on Thursday.

“The Delta variant is called the fittest and fastest for good reason,” said Tanis Maxwell, South Central lead epidemiologist. “We’ve watched this strain spread quickly throughout India, the UK, and now the U.S. Identifying just one case in our region means it is likely there are more that simply haven’t been identified.”

The particularly infectious version of the virus has been making the rounds nationwide of late, accounting for 58 percent of current cases in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 continues to rebound in South Central’s eight-county jurisdiction. After peaking in January, cases fell until mid-June, according to Health District spokeswoman Brianna Bodily; since then, they’ve steadily climbed. Ninety-four percent of new cases are among unvaccinated residents, she said.

“Our current rates mimic the trends we saw last summer. A small surge in cases in the middle of summer, and then a huge surge in the fall,” Maxwell said. “We can still prevent that massive fall surge if enough residents receive their vaccine now. Time is running out to get our communities fully vaccinated before people begin gathering indoors again.”

Since June, 98.7% of COVID-related hospitalizations statewide have been patients with no record of COVID-19 vaccinations, Bodily said. As of Wednesday, the Department of Health and Welfare reported that 45% of Idahoans 12 and up are fully vaccinated against the disease.

“All of our residents play a crucial role in stopping the disease. Right now, vaccines are still highly effective against the variants but viruses can mutate to stay alive. With every new mutation/variant created we run the risk of this virus becoming resistant to vaccines,” said Logan Hudson, South Central Public Health division administrator. “The only way to stop variants from forming is to stop the virus from spreading. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I urge you to get your vaccine as soon as possible.”

This is a developing story. For more on updates on COVID-19, see tomorrow's edition of the Idaho Mountain Express, or visit www.mtexpress.com anytime.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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