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A closer look at the Delta variant, breakthrough cases in Dane County


DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- The Delta variant of the coronavirus is the dominant strain in Dane County, and health officials say it's driving up cases at the same time they're seeing more breakthrough cases in vaccinated people.

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"In July, more than 80 percent of our cases that have been sequenced have been Delta," said Brittany Grogan, a data analyst with Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Grogan says vaccination rates across Dane County have been very good.

"I think we're above 50 percent in every single municipality now in Dane County," she said.

But with the Delta variant, there are new concerns -- like an 86.2 percent rise in cases in the last two weeks and a 17.1 percent rise in hospitalizations -- which Grogan says includes vaccinated people.

"Since the beginning of May, 76 percent of Dane County residents who have been hospitalized for COVID have not been fully vaccinated," she said.

That means 24 percent of people hospitalized have been vaccinated.

Grogan says it's hard to tell if that number is higher because of the Delta variant, but she says it shouldn't alarm most people.

"All but one of those (hospitalized) were over the age of 50, with most even being over the age of 80," she said.

Grogan says even people in those age groups shouldn't be concerned if they are fully vaccinated.

She says with any strain of COVID-19, people who are vaccinated still have a very small chance of catching the virus. Those who do will have mild symptoms. For many older people, mild symptoms of anything can put you in the hospital.

"Even sometimes a normal coronavirus, like a normal cold could put someone in the hospital," Grogan said.

But those recent hospitalizations among vaccinated people have not been severe.

"Most of those were fairly mild for being hospitalized," she said.

No one in Dane County has died from COVID-19 in the past 8 weeks.

Grogan says the vaccines work against all strains at preventing severe infection, but for the unvaccinated the risk is still high because these strains are bad.

"We are seeing the more severe outcomes in those that are not vaccinated," she said.

Grogan says there's been good news with kids so far, too. She says no one hospitalized in Dane County since May has been under the age of 12 -- the people who can't yet get vaccinated.

"When all of the adults around them are vaccinated, then the virus just really isn't spreading to them," she said. "That's kind of what we've been seeing lately."

But Grogan warns that the Delta variant could still throw a curve ball. PHMDC is still recommending masks for anyone unvaccinated.