COVID-19 cases were on a steady decline over the past six months, proving the efficacy of vaccination and mask wearing. Now, thanks to the delta variant, cases are back on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented just one week ago that cases are up by nearly 70%. Hospitalization rates are up nearly 36%, suggesting that dramatic surges are the direct result of relaxed mask guidances and low rates of vaccinations.
The delta variant is a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus, and it was first discovered in the United States in March 2021. It quickly became the dominant strain out of all the variants. Infectious disease experts say that delta’s rise is not unexpected. For example, the United Kingdom has a similar vaccination rate to the United States and the delta variant makes up 90% of new cases now. Originally, the alpha variant was the dominant strain, but the delta quickly took over by mid-June 2021.
How Much More Contagious Is The Delta Variant?
According to health experts, the delta variant appears to be 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strains. It also spreads 50% faster than the alpha variant. A report from China said that people who contract the delta variant have about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected with the original strain. Additionally, people with the delta variant are infectious earlier in the course of illness. In all measures, delta is more transmissible. It infects initial cells and the next cells more quickly than ever before. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it “the fastest and the fittest.”
The Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated
Currently, the United States is experiencing an average of 26,000 new cases per day. For a seven-day average, that is 70% higher than it was a mere week ago. The horrifying reality is that nearly all of the hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. In fact, the COVID-19 surges and outbreaks in the United States have been occurring in areas with the lowest vaccination rates. On the other hand, communities with higher vaccination rates continue to experience lower rates of infection. According to current medical data, the states that are currently experiencing high surges include Nevada, Florida, Missouri, and Louisiana.
As numbers continue to rise, several states and counties have re-implemented mask mandates for indoor public spaces. People in Los Angeles County, for example, now have to wear masks when inside public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Many health experts agree that wearing a mask in public is a smart move. The intermingling of vaccinated and unvaccinated people without masks poses a threat to the public, but mainly the unvaccinated.
It’s clear now that unvaccinated people did not follow the recommended indoor masking guidelines. Many stopped wearing masks with the new mask mandates in place. It’s interesting that 90% of people in a grocery store could be without masks, when less than 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated. It puts unvaccinated people, children, and people who are immunocompromised at risk. In fact, several reports show that roughly 99.5% of COVID-19 cases across several states in the U.S. were in unvaccinated people. This is sad news for hospitals, which have started to feel the strain of higher infection rates.
Is There Good News?
Even though the delta variant is more transmissible and is the dominant coronavirus strain, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. are lower than they were in peak seasons. That being said, there are many states, as we mentioned earlier, that continue to experience higher surges. Infectious disease specialists still encourage people to get the vaccine, as vaccination seems to be the best preventative measure. The COVID-19 vaccine has proven efficacy against the delta variant, making the risk of infection or severity of illness a lot lower for vaccinated people. It seems that COVID-19 is now largely a disease of unvaccinated people. Continue to practice preventative safety measures to keep yourself and others safe. Mask up indoors, wash your hands, and consider the vaccination status of people you interact with.