The Delta variant is fueling a COVID resurgence, now representing more than 20% of all new cases after doubling in a week. Research indicates the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is more contagious and potentially more deadly.

“People who get this virus have higher viral loads and they have those viral loads for longer periods of time so they shed more virus,” said former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Doctors say children under 12, not yet eligible to be vaccinated, are now among the nation’s most vulnerable. “So it’s going to be very important for parents to remain vigilant about those adults who may be near their children, who may be unvaccinated,” said Dr. Jim Versalovic of Texas Children’s Hospital.

CDC studies show the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective against the Delta variant if a person is fully vaccinated but only 33.5% effective for those only partially vaccinated.

“As long as there are people who are not vaccinated, COVID-19 will remain a threat,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Missouri now leads the nation in new infections per capita. Patients have been overwhelming one hospital in Springfield.

“It’s moving a lot faster. It’s a lot younger population and a lot sicker population,” Mercy Hospital Springfield President Craig McCoy said. “We started the morning with 37 patients that were held in the ER waiting on admission. They were held for about 12 hours for beds to clear.” 

“It’s disheartening that folks won’t get vaccinated,” McCoy continued.

Dr. Robert Atmar, of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, is heading a nationwide trial to evaluate booster shots in people who initially received a different brand of vaccine to evaluate safety and effectiveness. “We want to be prepared for the possibility that a booster dose may be needed,” Atmar said.

For now, the priority is getting shots in arms — especially in states like Missouri.

“This upswing, it’s going to cause deaths,” said Dr. Sam Alexander, an emergency medicine physician for CoxHealth in Springfield, Missouri. “There’s going to be people you know that are going to die because you are not vaccinated.”