Hackensack University lab looks for links between delta variant and unvaccinated people

Coronavirus Update New Jersey

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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Eyewitness News got an inside look at Hackensack University Medical Center's lab at the Center for Discovery and Innovation.

HACKENSACK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Eyewitness News got an inside look at Hackensack University Medical Center's lab at the Center for Discovery and Innovation.

Scientists there are working hard to figure out how to defeat the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Right now, the scientists are looking at test results for people who tested positive for the variant and they are trying to definitively prove that all the delta positives are unvaccinated.

"This one is just a better fit virus in terms of the transmissibility, we should be worried in the sense that it will find those unvaccinated and that's what this virus is doing now," research investigator Barry Kreiswirth said.

The delta virus is now being detected in most of the sample swaps. It quickly replaced the alpha and researchers say it's only growing.

Clinical Research Coordinator Elizabeth Titova is working to let the hospitals know if a patient has the delta strain in just a few days.

"Just to give you a little background a couple of weeks ago we did have a decrease in the number of swabs, but with the last couple of weeks we suddenly did have a sharp increase in the number of swabs," Titova said.

The studies have shown a few breakthrough cases of vaccinated people getting the delta virus with mild symptoms or none at all. But researchers say the best way to control the virus is to get vaccinated, which has successfully kept most people out of the hospital if they catch COVID.

"We have the measures to really stop this virus, it's a very effective vaccine and they work. We know that the variant, even though it spreads, is not causing serious illness in the vaccinated," Kreiswirth said.

Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey health officials are urging people to get vaccinated as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise.

Earlier this week, state officials in New Jersey said 99% of hospitalizations and deaths since mid-January have been among the unvaccinated.

"Because of the vaccines, this is a pandemic as we've been saying now for many weeks, among the unvaccinated. The protections they afford to the fully vaccinated cannot be contested," Governor Phil Murphy said. "Over the past week, the number of confirmed COVID positive patients in our hospitals increased roughly 30% over two weeks ago."

As the delta variant spreads, New Jersey has more cases per capita compared to Pennsylvania and Delaware. And while nearly 70% of New Jersey's adults are vaccinated, officials say it's not enough.

"To reverse the increases in the hospitalizations that we're seeing in the cases in our state, we need even more New Jerseyans to get vaccinated," said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

She specifically addressed vaccinations among the younger age brackets, saying among those ages 18-29, 62% have received at least one dose. That number is 44% for people ages 12-17.

Meantime, Governor Murphy and Commissioner Persichilli on Wednesday said they strongly recommend masking in indoor settings with increased risk.

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