The Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has arrived in Graham County.

Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas said lab results show two residents have contracted the variant, which spreads much more quickly than the original version. The results of other tests that are undergoing genotyping are pending, he said.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told U.S. senators Tuesday that the Delta variant now makes up 83% of sequenced samples in the country.

During the week of July 3, that percentage was 50%.

"We should think about the Delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids," Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden's Covid Response Team, told CNN last week.

"It's twice as infectious," Slavitt said. "Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the Delta variant in its tracks: It's called vaccine."

According to the CDC, less than half of the US population is fully vaccinated and the majority of those who are not vaccinated are not at all likely to get vaccinated, according to a poll published Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos.

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The Graham County Health Department also released the latest COVID-19 numbers Tuesday. Douglas said the state health department has been reconciling its numbers statewide which prompted him to stop providing daily updates for awhile.

Now that the state's numbers have been reconciled and the number of cases are on the rise, Douglas said he will again be releasing statistics more consistently.

As of Tuesday, there have been 5,625 COVID-19 cases in Graham County with 85 deaths, including two residents within the last month, a resident in the 45-54 age group who didn't have any underlying health conditions and a resident over the age of 65, Douglas said.

Thirty-nine local residents are currently battling the virus.

The FDA is expected to approve a vaccine for children 12 and older by the end of the month, Douglas said.

When school starts and the vaccine becomes available, Douglas said he will recommend school districts change their quarantine policies. He said the CDC doesn't believe vaccinated students who become exposed to the virus need to be quarantined, unless they are exhibiting symptoms. 

The CDC is still recommending a period of quarantine for unvaccinated students exposed to the virus whether they are showing symptoms or not, he said.

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