Delta Variant May Double Risk of Hospitalization for the Unvaccinated, Study Finds

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08/30/2021

Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

CBSNews.com

A new study finds troubling news concerning the Delta variant and those unvaccinated against the coronavirus. This comes as new COVID infections in the U.S. average more than 150,000 per day, a 21% increase in the last 14 days.

COVID patients are overwhelming hospitals from coast to coast, driving a summer surge. The Delta variant — which is more contagious than the original "Alpha variant" that spread globally — more than doubles the risk of hospitalization for the unvaccinated, according to a U.K. study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Researchers studied more than 40,000 COVID cases between March and May – when the Delta variant took off in Britain — to compare the rates of hospitalization. The findings closely resembled preliminary data from a Scottish study that indicated the Delta variant caused more hospitalizations.

"The results suggest that patients with the Delta variant had more than two times the risk of hospital admission compared with patients with the Alpha variant," according to the U.K. study. "Emergency care attendance combined with hospital admission was also higher for patients with the Delta variant, showing increased use of emergency care services as well as inpatient hospitalization."

Meanwhile, in emergency rooms like one in Atlanta, ambulances are being turned away.

In seven states, more than 90% of ICU beds are full, according to federal data. Alabama has zero beds left in its ICUs, sparking a rush in vaccinations.

Nationwide, deaths from COVID are up 355% since early July. Louisiana hit a record high of 139 deaths in a single day on August 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In South Carolina, one funeral home director said they have never seen this many deaths due to COVID

"It puts a stress not only on us, but the families we serve," director Robert Borning told CBS Florence, South Carolina, affiliate WBTW-TV.

But there are stories of survival. One of Colorado's first COVID patients, Jacob Larson, returned to serenade the doctors who saved him.

"The biggest 'thank you' anyone can give their health care provider is to go get their COVID vaccine," said physician and hospitalist Dr. Aiman Rauf, who treated Larson.

Larson, who spent 20 days in the hospital, got his vaccine. 

Meanwhile, almost 60% of those eligible in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated so far — still short of the 70% experts say is needed for herd immunity.

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