The man is the first known case in the region with the strain.By Pam Surano

AMBRIDGE, Pa. (KDKA) — A 73-year-old man from Beaver County who is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus is in the hospital after contracting the Delta variant.

Joe Pucci is the first known case in the region with the strain, and his family said he is lucky to be alive.

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Pucci’s family knew his health was compromised. They took steps to get the Ambridge man vaccinated early, but they never expected him to come down with COVID-19 post-vaccination, let alone the Delta variant.

(Photo Credit: Submitted)

Pucci was supposed to be celebrating his birthday on June 21 when his health plummeted.

“He was shaking so bad,” said Pucci’s wife Cora. “So I took his temperature and then it was 103.1 and I said that’s it, we’re going.”

Little did Cora know that her husband was rapidly losing oxygen. At the VA Pittsburgh Medical Center, the 73-year-old man, a former Ambridge councilman and Marine, was initially diagnosed with COVID-19.

“And when they told me he had COVID, I mean that was it. Anyone I knew that had COVID died from it,” Cora said.

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After 47 years of marriage, the couple had just bought a home down south and was preparing to live out their dream.

Cora said her husband’s health continued to decline the next few weeks, and then they received a second gut punch. Joe was diagnosed with the Delta strain and a world of confusion followed.

Joe was in the first wave to get vaccinated. He got the Pfizer vaccine, with Cora getting the Maderna vaccine.

Cora said Joe refused to be placed on a ventilator at the hospital even though his oxygen levels were still deteriorating. That’s when doctors tried an anti-viral medicine.

“By them giving him that medicine, him having his vaccine, probably saved his life,” said Cora.

As far as the drug administered to Joe, his family said it’s a rheumatoid arthritis medication that the FDA recently gave emergency use authorization for.

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Joe’s condition has improved, and he has been moved to a step-down unit. He is still considered contagious and can’t see his family, but he is no longer in the ICU.