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Shelby County health experts concerned about clusters of highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, reiterates need for vaccinations

10 confirmed cases, 14 probable cases so far, with more expected; Delta variant currently most contagious COVID-19 strain in the world.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "If we are not able to corral this.....it could be a tough summer," David Sweat with the Shelby County Health Department said.

Tuesday afternoon, the Shelby County Health Department put out the warning notice, as the most contagious COVID-19 variant in the world today now appears to be spreading in our own backyard.

"We have made tremendous progress and we don't want to lose what we've gained," Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph added.

In recent days, the health department were alerted of four separate, non-connected clusters of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

There's 10 confirmed cases and 14 probable cases locally - so far.

"We expect these numbers will increase because we are getting a lot of people tested right now," Sweat said.

Health experts said of the 10 confirmed cases, only one was fully vaccinated.

Initial studies show the vaccines are about 90% effective against the Delta variant.

"The reproductive rate of this virus is five so left uncontrolled, each case would create five new cases," Sweat said. "We have not experienced a virus that infectious in Shelby County."

While the area is in a much better vaccine protection position than even three months ago, health experts estimate 300,000 people in Shelby County still have no immunity against COVID-19 or its variants.

"The odds of you escaping the virus becomes smaller and smaller now with the more contagious virus and there's just no reason not to get vaccinated, it is highly safe, it is extremely effective and very effective against these variants, so far," Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Memorial Hospital added.

Shelby County does have an advantage in monitoring for the Delta variant, as the local biocontainment lab does have better sequencing that can more quickly hone in on clusters of positive variant cases.