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Delta variant could reverse work done to break free from pandemic

Experts say the more people prolong getting the vaccine, the more time new variants have to spread.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The more contagious delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country and there are concerns we could see a spike in cases after Fourth of July gatherings this weekend.

There's more of a risk in places with low vaccination rates, and health experts say delta isn't necessarily the only threat. More dangerous variants could continue to develop the longer COVID-19 is in our communities.

As we celebrate our freedom this weekend, the delta variant is potentially damaging some of the progress we've made to break free from the pandemic.

"We are concerned about areas of the country that have low vaccination rates. and we are seeing some spikes," Dr. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, said.  

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Delta originally developed in India. It's more contagious and seems to make people sicker."Viruses are mutating all the time and variants develop so this is not unusual," Dr. Levine explained.

And the longer people put off getting the shots, the more dangerous the situation can become.  "The more people who are not vaccinated just give this virus more opportunity to develop these variants. The more people that are vaccinated, the less opportunity it has to create variants," Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County Health Director, said. 

People who haven't gotten the covid shots are most at risk. About 43% of the population in both North and South Carolina is fully vaccinated. That's on the lower end.

Getting those numbers up and more people protected is critical to getting our country back on track.

"We are concerned about other variants developing, it's possible they could develop in the U.S.," Dr. Levine explained.

She continued, "It's more likely they could develop in other countries and they could pose a threat in the future. But right now what we're focusing on in the united states is convincing people about the safety of our vaccines, about the effectiveness of our vaccines, and about how important they are."

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.