What to know about the Delta variant
[3 MIN READ]
In this article:
- The COVID-19 Delta variant is driving a 300% spike in U.S. cases.
- Current vaccines offer protection against all known variants of COVID-19.
- Providence clinical experts share their perspectives on the Delta variant.
As with all things COVID-19, there is a lot of information circulating on the latest variants. And some of the information is conflicting and confusing. To help you understand what’s important to know right now, our experts have selected several facts and offer their clinical perspective about the Delta variant – and variants in general – so you can stay informed. Read on to find out more.
The Delta variant is highly contagious.
According to public health authorities and recent research from the CDC, the Delta variant is more contagious than the original virus. “With the original variant, it was estimated that one person can infect up to 2.5 others. However, with the Delta variant, one person may be able to infect 6-9 people. In fact, early research suggests that Delta is more contagious than Ebola, SARS and the common cold. This means that the chances of catching this variant are higher, especially for those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Becca Bartles, executive director, Infectious Disease Management and Prevention.
Delta is contributing to changing guidance.
In part because of Delta’s high transmissibility, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have spiked 300% since mid-June, and we’re nearly back to peak 2020 levels. Many parts of the country had scaled back restrictions in the spring and early summer, but we’re seeing guidelines revert back to early pandemic levels and evolve to reflect the latest risks posed by the rapidly spreading variant. For example, the CDC recently updated its mask guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated people to mask in indoor public settings and in areas with high infection rates. “We can expect guidance to continue to evolve as more information about the variants, including Delta, come to light,” said Bartles.
We saw this coming. Variants are inevitable as long as the virus is in circulation.
Viruses mutate over time and evolve to evade our immune system response. This is normal and expected in the case of COVID-19 and other viruses like the flu. While COVID-19 continues to spread, and until we approach herd immunity, we can expect to see new mutations and variants like Delta crop up. “One of the biggest concerns for health care providers, scientists and public health authorities currently is that the mutations may outpace our efforts, eventually rendering the vaccines available to us now less effective. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important for those who can get vaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine ASAP, so we can slow and eventually stop the spread and evolution of the virus,” said Bartles.
Fortunately, the vaccines work and offer protection against the COVID-19 Delta variant.
We know that the vaccines available today in the U.S. offer substantial protection against COVID-19 and the variants in circulation right now and can keep us from getting severely ill or hospitalized. “As vaccination rates go up in the U.S., we’re seeing deaths due to COVID-19 go down. We’re also seeing this in hospitals across the country, with the large majority of COVID-19 hospital admissions being among those who are unvaccinated,” said Ari Robicsek, chief medical analytics officer. While some rare breakthrough infections have happened in those who are vaccinated, they generally don’t become as sick as those without the vaccine and recover quicker.
The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent COVID-19-related illness, hospitalization and death. It’s also our path to getting back to normal. If you’re on the fence about getting the vaccine, talk with your provider about your options and what’s right for you and your health. If you know someone who might be hesitant or have questions about the vaccine, we encourage you to review and share the resources below.