As Delta variant spreads, doctors urge balancing safety and celebration over holiday weekend

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As fireworks shows and 4th of July events return this weekend across the Triangle, doctors are stressing the need for people to celebrate safely.

Thursday, the CDC reported a 10% increase nationally in new cases, stemming from the Delta variant.

"The Delta variant has steadily increased in the US from just being a few percent a number of weeks ago to CDC reports more than 20% of all the cases," said Dr. David Weber, the Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology at UNC Health.

Most events take place outside, where transmission is less likely. However, risk is based on a number of circumstances.

"Sitting at say an outdoor stadium watching fireworks, where people are packed shoulder-to-shoulder may be for a prolonged period of time, hours, people are screaming, and yelling, and shouting, and having fun. That clearly increases the risk and there is some risk of transmission when people are very close," Dr. Weber said.

He suggests wearing a mask if you're in a large crowd and unable to socially distance, and pointed to CDC guidance stating unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks when indoors.

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With the Delta variant surging the debate over wearing masks is once again front and center.



Health officials say the Delta variant is more transmissible and believed to be more dangerous, though vaccines have proven effective against them.

"We know that (the vaccine) is very safe. The risk of rare side effects is one in hundreds of thousands. Clearly, the benefits exceed the risks. And now, tens of millions of people have been given this vaccine so I encourage anybody who is not vaccinated to become vaccinated to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones," said Dr. Weber.
People streamed into a vaccination site on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh late Friday morning to get their shots.

"Yeah, I definitely thought about (the variant). And that's the reason why I came today just because it's getting more prevalent and I just want to make sure I'll be fine by the time I go back to school," said Jackson Phillips, a teenager from Apex who received his first dose.

"I think (the variant is) very dangerous. And I think that's why everyone has to get the vaccine," said Pedro Gutierrez, who received his second shot.

Gutierrez says he hopes to travel to see his family in Colombia now that he's fully vaccinated. Travel is one of the reasons why people are getting tested at a regional site in Fuquay-Varina.

"We had an employee asking me the other day, he was going to travel internationally and he needed to know how quickly we got results so they need to show within a certain time. I had a parent call me of a child who was going to go to a YMCA camp, and they require testing," said Richard Hayner, the Director of the Southern Regional Center site, which offers both COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

North Carolina has had five straight days of increasing hospitalizations, though cases have been fairly flat compared to last week. Through Thursday, 56% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, lagging far behind the national rate of 66.8%. However, Wake County is besting those numbers, with 67.8% of its adult population fully vaccinated.
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