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Maine CDC: Delta Variant Of Coronavirus Will Be More Dangerous For Unvaccinated

Nick Woodward
Maine Public

Maine health officials say that a dangerous variant of the coronavirus is likely to become much more common here in the next month or two.

On Wednesday, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah warned that the Delta variant is very contagious, and also may be more likely to cause serious illness and death. He says that makes it more urgent for Mainers to get vaccinated.

“It’s only a matter of time before it takes greater hold here in Maine and causes an increasing number of cases among those who are not vaccinated, so again if you have been waiting to see whether or when to get vaccinated, now is the best time to do so," he says.

The Delta variant was first discovered in India last winter. It has now been found in a fifth of new U.S. coronavirus infections, and it’s expected to surpass the Alpha variant as the most dominant one here.

Maine has only identified four cases of the Delta variant so far, but Shah says there are almost certainly more.

Sixty percent of Maine’s population is now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Shah also announced that 8,713 Mainers have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine since the state announced a sweepstakes last week as an incentive for residents to get a shot.

It's still unclear how many of the recently vaccinated were motivated by the chance to win nearly $1 million, according to Shah. But he said the program will be a success if it moved some of them. He gave the example of a man who won a similar vaccine lottery in Ohio.

"I was compelled by the fact that when he was interviewed, he said straight up, 'I wasn't really going to get the vaccine, but then I heard about this chance to win money, and that's when I signed up to get vaccinated', Let's see if that unfolds here in Maine, but I think that's the ethos that we're looking at," Shah said.

More than 226,000 Mainers have now registered for the contest, which is open to any resident who's had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of June. The prize now stands at more than $886,000.