Many Americans are celebrating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, as infections, hospitalizations and deaths are at an all-time low since the virus first started ravaging the country in spring 2020. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now classified the Delta variant, first discovered in India, as a "variant of concern," accounting for 10 percent of cases in the United States. What does this mean and why are virus experts so concerned? Read on for six essential life-saving tips—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.
What Is a "Variant of Concern"?
Per the CDC, a variant of concern means "there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures."
The Delta Variant Is "More Transmissible and Deadly"
Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia explains that the new variant is "more transmissible and deadly."
"It's doubling every two weeks," former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb also said on Face the Nation.
Can Vaccination Protect You From It
Dr. Mareiness notes that the Delta variant is "particularly concerning for people who have not been vaccinated." He also notes that those who are vaccinated will be protected more from the new variant than those who were previously infected with the virus who have not yet gotten fully vaccinated. "Prior infection with wild type covid is less protective than vaccination. In other words, a prior covid infection may not protect you from the new variants.
"We Will Likely See a Seasonal Surge"
Dr. Mareiness believes that the new variant may result in another wave of infection. "We will likely see a seasonal surge in cases in Fall/Winter," he says. "It's important to get vaccinated before this happens."
"I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall," Gottlieb also said.
International Vaccination Is Crucial
International vaccination may be one of the most efficient ways to prevent this from occurring. "Also, although we are making progress nationally with vaccination, there is significant need for international vaccination as well. It is important to control the virus globally. Without control of the pandemic internationally, we will continue to have new variants that may eventually be able to avoid current vaccine protections," Dr. Mareiniss points out.
"The Pandemic Is Not Over"
Ultimately, don't throw your masks away. "The pandemic is not over and this variant may become dominant in the US," Dr. Mareiniss states. So follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.