You’ve likely heard of the Delta variant of coronavirus. But are you aware of exactly what it is or why it matters? First identified in India, the Delta variant has since spread around the world. This rapid expansion is causing concern due to its high rate of transmission and increased hospitalizations. As mask wearing and social distancing requirements around the U.S. ease, it’s important to know how the Delta variant could trigger new surges of coronavirus, posing a risk to public health.
1. The Delta variant is more infectious than other strains of the virus.
Studies have suggested that the Delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant. (Which itself is 50% more transmissible than the first strain of the virus detected in Wuhan, China.) The Delta variant is also now the most dominant in the U.S. and has been associated with a higher rate of severe symptoms leading to hospitalization. These factors have categorized the variant as a “super-spreader,” which could put a damper on the reopening efforts occurring throughout the U.S.
2. Vaccination is the best line of protection.
Vaccination is not 100% effective, but fully vaccinated individuals have a very slim chance of getting sick with any strain of coronavirus, including the Delta variant. And when vaccinated people do get sick, they experience much milder symptoms. One point of concern is that those with just one dose of the vaccine are more susceptible to the Delta variant than other strains. It is important to receive both doses of the vaccine within the recommended timeline.
The Delta variant has spread the most rapidly in areas of the U.S. where vaccination rates are particularly low, such as the South. Only about 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, leaving lots of room for this dangerous variant to spread and evolve.
3. Wearing a mask is still important, especially for the unvaccinated.
Because it’s not immediately obvious what a person’s vaccine status is, wearing a mask in public is still advisable for everyone, but especially for those who are not yet vaccinated. In some areas of the United States, such as L.A. County, mask restrictions are still in place for most indoor spaces, even though the CDC has relaxed their recommendations.
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