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CDC says the Delta variant is spreading rapidly

Anyone who isn't vaccinated is now at a high risk to contract COVID, experts say.

SAN ANTONIO — There's a new sense of urgency as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve. 

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control say the Delta variant now makes up 83% of new coronavirus cases—amounting to a huge jump from just two weeks ago, when the variant accounted for 50% of new diagnoses. 

Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who represents a part of northwest San Antonio, and some Olympics athletes are among the high-profile cases of vaccinated people coming down with what is likely the Delta variant of the coronavirus, showing just how contagious it is. 

As for those who are still unvaccinated, experts say the chance of catching COVID-19 is now very high. 

"It really is spreading really rapidly to people that are unvaccinated, even people that have had prior infection with a prior strain or wholly or only partially vaccinated," said Dr. Jason Bowling, an associate professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio. "This virus is so efficient at causing infection that unvaccinated people are very high-risk." 

One question that's coming up increasingly often: Why should I get vaccinated when some of the vaccinated are getting the Delta variant?

The answer from experts: Those who have been immunized may catch COVID-19, but they're less likely to experience severe symptoms.

Without the vaccine, experts say, the chance of severe disease if you catch COVID-19 is much higher than if you get the vaccine. You could still get it, but it won't be nearly as bad and could mean the difference between life and death.

"This Delta variant is very transmissible to the point that even fully vaccinated people can get infected," Bowling added. "There's still pretty good protection against any asymptomatic disease, (and) very good protection against severe disease."  

Close to 75% of those 12 years of age and older in Bexar County have had at least one dose of a vaccine, while 62% of that eligible population is fully vaccinated. But vaccination rates have slowed down considerably, and in the past four weeks have largely been flat. 

"The risk of being hospitalized right now is higher than it was before, even for people that may not have any medical problems that they're aware of," Bowling said. 

Bowling also said vaccine side effects generally occur within a few weeks of the second dose, and there have been no instances of side effects surfacing once six months have passed.