The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black neighborhoods remain vulnerable as Delta variant triples in U.S.

Residents in Chicago’s Black community remain at risk of contracting COVID-19 with low vaccination rates as the emerging Delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread throughout the country.

After months of campaigns, neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides are in danger of being infected by the Delta COVID-19 variant, a dangerous virus that experts say is more transmissible than the coronavirus.

While affluent neighborhoods in the city return to normal life, low vaccination rates continue to plague Black and minority neighborhoods.

Many of zip codes in the Black community still have the lowest vaccination rates in the city that are under 40 percent. They include Austin (60644), Englewood (60621), West Englewood (60636), South Shore (60649), Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing (60619), West Pullman and Roseland (60628), Auburn Gresham (60620) and West Garfield Park (60624).

With just 32 percent of residents receiving at least one dose in Englewood, the neighborhood has the lowest vaccination rates in the city.

The dangerous variant has now reached 47 states, especially in the South, where the variant is surging amid low vaccination rates.

 At least 64 cases of COVID-19 in Illinois have been identified as the delta variant, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, as officials issue new warnings about the rapidly spreading strain.

As of June 17, those 64 cases of the Delta variant in Illinois are out of a total of 9,437 COVID-19 cases in the state that have been identified as one of the six known variants.

Of those, a total of 6,313 in Illinois have been the alpha variant, while another 2,436 were identified as the gamma variant.

Last weekend, the drive-thru at Chicago State University’s mass vaccination clinic closed, the Mayor’s Office announced in a news release. However, walk-up vaccination shots at the site are still being offered.

The walk-up site is open noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. Appointments are not required. The site offers the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which is free and do not require insurance.

Experts say vaccinations have proven to be the best way to prevent the spread of the Delta variant. A recent study by Public Health England found that two doses of a coronavirus vaccine are “highly effective against hospitalization” caused by the Delta variant.

The study found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses.

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy previously told CNN there isn’t enough data to indicate the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine regarding the Delta variant, but it has shown it can help prevent hospitalizations and deaths when people are infected with other strains.

“The key is [to] get vaccinated, get both doses,” Murthy said.

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” said the Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible and causes more severe disease, could cause an upsurge in infections, but the levels will vary depending on the rates of vaccination in each area.

The Delta COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in India, has now been reported in more than 80 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly 400,000 people in India have died during the pandemic, but the Delta variant is believed to have killed tens of thousands in recent months.

The Delta variant is also sweeping through the United Kingdom and has become dominant in Portugal while emerging in Germany, France and Spain.

The WHO declared the Delta variant a “variant of concern” last month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week upgraded its classification of delta from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern.”

“When we look across the United States, we see wide variances in terms of vaccination rates,” said Gottlieb, who compared places like Vermont and Connecticut, which have rates of over 80 percent, with others that are struggling to get to 50 percent.

New research suggests less vaccinated areas are at risk. Scientists at Helix analyzed nearly 20,000 COVID-19 tests collected since April and found the Delta variant is quickly rising in counties with fewer vaccinated residents.

In Springfield, Missouri, the low rate of vaccinations combined with the Delta variant has led to a six-fold increase in hospitalizations at CoxHealth, a health care system there, according to its CEO, Steve Edwards.

Over the past four and a half weeks, the number of patients has risen from around 14 to 83, Edwards told CNN recently. He added that patients are younger and have more severe disease than previously—and almost all are unvaccinated.

The Delta variant made up about 10 percent of cases that were tested three or four weeks ago, he said. “As of last week, it appeared to be 90 percent.”

“I think it is the Delta variant, and there is a lot of kindling with low vaccination rates, so it’s spreading very rapidly.”

Edwards, the CEO of CoxHealth, told CNN last week that the Delta variant is unlike others.

“We can’t tell why one patient is doing poorly and one is doing well. There’s just something different about how this variant is affecting the immune system of our patients,” Edwards said.

Thanks to the generosity of funding provided by The Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc. in producing this article.

 (Published in the Chicago Crusader Newspaper June 26, 2021)

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