We know, from officials at Denton County Public Health, that now-infamous variants to the pandemic-causing coronavirus are well represented in Denton County.
The exact extent isn’t clear yet, but officials say it’s safe to assume the majority of current virus infections in the county are caused by one variant or another.
Juan Rodriguez, assistant director and chief epidemiologist at DCPH, pointed to state and national data that suggest most new infections, nearly 90% in some cases, are caused by a variant.
The delta variant — perhaps the variant with the most name recognition at this point — represented an estimated 57.6% of all infections in the country in the most recent reporting period from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The top three variants in the country represented 92.6% of all infections in the reporting period ending on July 3, according to the CDC.
Rodriguez said it’s safe to assume those numbers would translate to local infections, but DCPH isn’t capable of determining what, if any, variant is responsible for each patient who tests positive for the coronavirus.
“It’s likely most cases that exist are some variant [of the earlier coronavirus],” Rodriguez said.
Based on CDC models, the delta variant has rapidly swelled to outcompete its fellow coronavirus variants. It represented only 3.1% of recent infections by May 22 but had grown to the majority infector by July 3.
“Delta is more infectious than alpha, alpha was more infectious than the original COVID,” Rodriguez explained.
For comparison, alpha represented 69% of infections in the country by May 22 and only 24.9% by July 3.
Officials have to rely on national and state numbers for the time being because only a handful of local infections are selected for the kind of genomic sequencing required to determine if a coronavirus infection was caused by a particular variant strain.
Rodriguez said local officials have to appeal to the state health department to test particular people, and those requests are typically for vaccinated people who were infected or for those who had been infected more than once.
He didn’t have information to share publicly Friday when asked about the prevalence of vaccinated locals being infected, which are known as “breakthrough cases.”
He said DCPH was working to collect and assemble that information, which eventually will be released online through the department’s normal data webpage.
Data will be released soon, he said, but he declined to estimate how soon that might be.
He said it wasn’t clear how many of these breakthrough infections were caused by variants, but it would probably be safe to assume many of them were because the data suggests most overall infections are now caused by variants.
Regardless, the recommendation remains for people to get vaccinated because it will drastically reduce their chances of being infected and seems to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for COVID-19.
That repeated guidance comes amid a local surge in virus infections.
Infections in Denton County had declined from their peak in late 2020 and early 2021 until they began to rise over the past few weeks.
Just over 54.5% of Denton County residents over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated by Friday afternoon.
That beats the state by a few percentage points, according to state data.