A new spike in COVID-19 cases can be attributed to the more transmissible delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The surge caused more hospitalizations and deaths, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. Although it was first identified in India, the delta variant is currently in at least 77 countries and now accounts for more than 20% of all U.S. COVID-19 cases.
What Is The Delta Variant?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the delta variant will probably become the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. Since half the country remains unvaccinated, it’s possible that it could cause a COVID-19 resurgence in Fall 2021. The delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible than the alpha variant, which scientists identified in the U.K. The alpha strain was 50% more transmissible than the original strain detected in Wuhan, China.
The delta variant seems to be spreading rapidly in the U.S., and the rise in cases has prompted some city officials to reinstate indoor mask guidances. Because the delta variant is hypertransmissible, experts say it is the most contagious version to date. Additionally, it may increase the severity of symptoms or illness after contracting the variant. According to a study in Scotland, the hospitalization rate of people who contracted the delta variant was 85% higher than people with the alpha variant.
Do Vaccines Protect Against The Delta Variant?
As of now, vaccination appears to provide solid protection against the delta variant. People who only have one dose of the vaccine are not as protected, though. Two weeks after receiving the second dose, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has proven to be 88% effective against symptomatic infections caused by the delta variant. Alternatively, Moderna’s vaccine shows more promise against the delta variant. Laboratory studies exhibited that Moderna produced neutralizing antibodies against delta, beta, and eta variants. These results are based on blood serum tests from eight participants, one week after they received the second dose.
Due to the fact that the delta variant is highly transmissible, it is outpacing vaccinations. Unfortunately, the longer the delta variant spreads, the more opportunities it has to mutate into more dangerous variants. The good news is that several health experts don’t expect the delta variant to cause nationwide surges in the U.S. Because of the near 50% vaccination rate, it should not escalate to the level of India’s COVID-19 case and death rate.
What Happens Now?
Only time will tell how the delta variant affects the U.S. It will depend on different communities around the country and total vaccination rates. Parts of Texas and Arizona, for instance, still have low vaccinations rates. Local surges seem to be inevitable, but cities or towns with more vaccinated people should not experience an increase in new infection rates. In fact, it will be much harder for the variant to spread in an area of high vaccination rates.
The goal is total containment, but this delta variant may be a slight bump in the road on the way there. Health experts hope that the country does not experience an exponential rise in cases like it did in December 2020 and January 2021. In order to combat the delta variant, it’s best to mask up when you’re in indoor public settings. Even if you are fully vaccinated, masks offer an extra layer of protection.
Since mask guidelines have lifted in most states, there are unvaccinated individuals mixing with vaccinated individuals without masks. This also poses a risk for children and teenagers. While children and teens remain a lower risk of contracting COVID-19, it’s still possible for infection to occur. Right now, the delta variant can spread easily between unvaccinated children and teens. It doesn’t seem to cause more serious illness or symptoms than earlier strains of the virus, though.
As long as the virus circulates in other areas, even if they are outside of the U.S., it’s possible for it to make its way here. This is especially true now that international travel continues to open back up. New mutations can occur and put more lives at risk. Stay safe and protect yourself.