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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – COVID-19 is back on the rise in Oklahoma, according to INTEGRIS Health officials.

Oklahoma has experienced a 14 percent increase in positive COVID cases and a 26 percent increase in COVID hospitalizations in just the past week, according to INTEGRIS officials.

INTEGRIS Health has seen a big jump in COVID patients in its Northeast Oklahoma hospitals.

“We currently have as many COVID patients in the hospital as we did at the height of the pandemic. Ottawa County has been hit hard by the Delta variant,” said Justin Mitchell, D.O., a hospitalist at INTEGRIS Miami Hospital. “Unfortunately, we have a low rate of vaccination among our residents and these patients seem to be hit the hardest with the disease. We have seen a few patients hospitalized who were vaccinated, but they are generally doing much better than those who were not vaccinated.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health officials believe there are currently 2,336 active COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma. Officials say 175 Oklahomans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on average over the past three days.

The sudden rise in COVID cases comes after a steep decline.

“We went for weeks without a single patient being hospitalized with COVID. Then in mid-June we saw an uptick and have been caring for hospitalized COVID patients each day since,” said INTEGRIS Grove hospitalist Samuel Ratermann, M.D. “We are also seeing a much higher number of younger patients than we have in the past, and these patients are very ill.”

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Data shows that around 28 percent of Oklahomans who test positive for COVID-19 end up in the hospital.

The highly contagious Delta variant is the reason for the increase in COVID-19 cases and the severity of those cases, officials said.

The Delta variant is of particular concern because it spread easily and quickly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Delta variant accounted for just over a quarter of new U.S. COVID-19 cases a few weeks ago. However, it now accounts for over 50 percent of new cases. In some parts of country, including parts of the Midwest, Delta accounts for as much as 80 percent of new cases.

The variant has been found in testing samples from Northeast Oklahoma.

INTEGRIS Health doctors encourage all people age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

French researchers have gathered new evidence that COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against COVID mutations such as the Delta variant.

France’s Pasteur Institute researches announced new evidence Thursday that getting fully vaccinated is critical to protect against COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

Laboratory tests show that blood from several dozen people who only received their first dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines “barely inhibited” the Delta variant, according to the journal Nature. But nearly all the test subjects had what researchers deemed an immune boost strong enough to neutralize the Delta variant weeks after getting their second dose of the vaccine.