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COVID cases increasing in unvaccinated as more breakthroughs pop up

An epidemiologist with the Prince William Health District said in July, they estimate breakthroughs make up about 25% of positive COVID cases.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — As COVID cases increase nationally and locally, researchers said they're starting to see more breakthrough cases. It's being seen in local communities and other parts of the United States.

Prince William County epidemiologist with the local health district, Sean Morris, said they've seen a 100% to 150% increase in cases over the last several weeks.

“We're seeing this divide of vaccinated and unvaccinated in the country. And I think that with a communicable disease, we always think of it as none of us safe until we all are safe," Morris said. "Variants occur due to the spread of disease. And the more spread there is, the more likely we are to get a new variant. That's what happened with the Delta variant.”

At the same time, COVID data shows that vaccine administration has been trending downward over the summer. Community pop-up clinics are also seeing a decrease.

The Temple of Praise in Southeast D.C. set up a clinic months ago. At first, staffers say they had hundreds show up for vaccinations. Now, they said it's about a handful a day.

But, there are still people coming to them for first doses, like Lena Kelly, who works in healthcare.

“I was very skeptical at first, but I'm too scared not to get it at this point. Like, because the numbers are now going up," Kelley said. "I would much rather even if I do catch it, at least I can survive from it. And so that right their kind of scared me into Okay, let me get it. Let me protect myself. And let me protect my son.”

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Doctors now have started to see breakthrough cases where people that are fully vaccinated have contacted COVID-19 after vaccination. Morris said these specific cases make up about 25% of Prince William County's COVID cases from July so far. However, Morris said it's rare for breakthrough cases to result in hospitalization or death.

“It's really not happening in a vacuum," Dr. Lisa Maragakis, the Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Johns Hopkins said. "When you look at the risks of a vaccine, you have to also look at the risks of what you're trying to prevent. And in this case, those are very real risks of getting infected. And I would say an almost certainty, actually, if you remain unvaccinated, you will eventually get this virus. So please get the vaccine instead.”

22-year-old Walter Staples echoes that sentiment now. He said he was hesitant to get the shot until the same members of his community doing it. Now, he joins doctors in asking people his age to protect their loved ones.

“I have a grandfather, and I have other members of my family that are susceptible to catching COVID. And there is a higher risk of dying or having a higher chance of dying," Staples said. "So I'm really just doing my due diligence to make sure that I'm keeping the people who I love safe.”

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