The new COVID variant, Delta, is an immensely contagious strain of the virus currently taking hold across America. It is now responsible for one in every five COVID-19 cases in the United States, and its prevalence is continuing its climb.
This variant was first identified in India and has since then spread through Britain rapidly as well, and while the number of vaccinated people in the United States goes up, it is still unclear how strongly this variant will affect the U.S. The Delta strain is almost twice as transmissible compared to other strains, increasing the likelihood of infection especially among unvaccinated people.
The Delta variant has also created its own variant known as “Delta-Plus”, though it is unknown as of now if this variant is more infectious than the original Delta strain. Dr. George Rutherford, a UC San Francisco epidemiologist states “It sounds like just another variant that’s no better, no worse, than the regular Delta variant.”
Dr. Monica Ghandi, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco has also noted that there is a lack of data on the Delta-plus variant because of the lack of genomic surveillance in India due to funding shortages. However, experts generally agree that overall, there is a limit to how transmissible the coronavirus can become. Most scientists do not expect it to be comparable to a virus like the measles, one of the world’s most contagious viruses.
There is also evidence that suggests that this variant may be able to partially evade the antibodies made by the body after a coronavirus infection or vaccination, as well as be able to render certain monoclonal antibody treatments less effective.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has described the Delta strain as “currently the greatest threat in the U.S to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.” The Delta strain is the third most common variant as of now.
The WHO has urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks and practice the usual safety measures to help combat these highly contagious variants. Dr. Mariangela Siamo, WHO assistant director-general emphasizes that being vaccinated cannot stop community transmission; masks, hand hygiene, and physical distance are important for containing and protecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals when community transmission is occurring.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, that almost half of infected adults in an outbreak of the delta variant in Israel were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, this alone urged the Israeli government to reimpose indoor mask requirements and other safety measures.
Places with low vaccination rates are at the most risk for this variant, especially certain pockets of the country where vaccination levels are very low and can cause dense outbreaks. Many southern states have low or lagging vaccination numbers. President Biden is urging the country to be proactive and get as many adults and children vaccinated as possible.