The highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is prompting a surge of coronavirus cases in Missouri, a warning sign of what may happen this summer in other areas of the U.S. with low vaccination rates, public-health experts say.
For more than a week, Missouri had the highest case rate in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of July 1, the seven-day average of new cases hit 898, up from 511 three weeks earlier, data from Johns Hopkins University show.
The Missouri state health department tests wastewater to track the spread of Covid-19, including which variant is dominant. Data from June 14, the most recent available, showed the Delta variant was present statewide. At the beginning of May, the variant wasn’t present in the wastewater sampled, the data showed.
“The uptick is powered by the Delta variant,” said Clay Dunagan, chief medical officer at BJC HealthCare, a system serving St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri.
The variant, which is about 40% to 60% more contagious than the previous dominant variant, is sending more people to hospitals in the northern and southwestern parts of the state, health officials say.