Delta variant poses heightened risk to unvaccinated Floridians, doctors say

The highly contagious coronavirus mutation that ripped through India and Europe is in the United States and the strain has popped up in Florida. It’s called the Delta variant and it threatens a specific group: the unvaccinated.

Virologist Dr. Michael Teng said the variant spreads much faster than the UK mutation, now known as the Alpha variant, so that puts the country in a tough spot to fight back.

"We’re below 50% of eligible people, adults, being vaccinated so as long as we’re below 50%, the virus is going to cause problems. It’s going to lead to hospitalizations and severe COVID is still going to lead to death," said Dr. Teng.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

Scientists expect Delta variant infections to grow. Epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins from University of Florida Health said the new variant makes vaccine drives much more important.

"I think unfortunately one thing that motivates people is when they know people who got ill or they know people that died who got COVID-19, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid," said Dr. Prins.

A Manatee County government building did not avoid an outbreak last week that sickened five and killed two.

RELATED: 8 COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths reported among unvaccinated Manatee County employees

On Monday, the county administrator said the workers infected were unvaccinated, however, it’s unclear whether the Delta variant is the culprit.

"This seems to be a very contagious variant and based on these five cases in this situation it was a 40% case fatality rate. That’s very high," said Dr. Scott hopes, the Manatee County administrator.

It’s a stiff reminder that the pandemic is not over and that vaccines play a vital role in squashing any form of COVID-19.

"It’s a reminder as well that there’s still so much we don’t know about COVID-19, and we’re only just learning the longer-term effects of having been infected," said Prins.

Public health experts said that vaccines work against the Delta variant and other variants that are showing up around the world right now. So they will keep encouraging people to get protected with a shot.