With almost 50 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated, we’re still hearing more about variant strains of COVID-19 — specifically, the Delta variant. And although some of the headlines seem frightening, it’s important to remember that this is something scientists and healthcare workers both anticipated and prepared for. Here’s what we know about the Delta variant and what you can expect as a vaccinated person.
The Delta variant is a mutation of the COVID-19 virus. Viruses naturally evolve and mutate inside infected people. And when we have millions of people who are infected all over the world, we can expect variant strains to occur.
Although ideally we would be able to isolate the Delta variant, containing viruses in a world like ours (with porous borders and international travel being the norm) is just not possible.
Data suggests that the Delta variant is significantly more contagious than previous strains of the COVID-19 virus; however, it is not proving to be more deadly. The number of hospitalizations has not gone up disproportionately, although the second surge is primarily affecting people who are not vaccinated.
At this point, the fact that we still have many unvaccinated people is slowing the fight against COVID-19. The more we let the virus incubate (the slower we vaccinate), the likelier it is that a new virus strain will emerge — potentially one that is resistant to our available vaccines.
We understand that it can feel frustrating to take a collective step back in a world where many of us have pandemic fatigue and are ready for a life free of COVID-19 restrictions. And although we’re not out of the pandemic yet, the good news is that we’ve made incredible progress, and when it comes to vaccinated people and the Delta variant, little precautions can go a long way.
The CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently released interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people, recommending that fully vaccinated people take the following steps:
• Wear a mask in public, indoor settings or areas where there is a high risk of transmission.
• Consider wearing a mask even in low-risk situations if you or someone in your household is immunocompromised.
• Get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after exposure to someone who either is suspected to have or has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and wear a mask for 14 days or until a negative test result has been received.
• The CDC has also added a recommendation that all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to any school setting wear a mask, even if vaccinated.
The CDC also says that fully vaccinated people can continue to:
• Participate in many pre-pandemic activities, with a mask if the activities are indoors
• Resume travel
• Refrain from pre-travel testing and post-travel self-quarantine if they are asymptomatic
For people who are unvaccinated, the Delta variant poses an increased risk of catching COVID-19. One of the most common questions we get when it comes to the vaccine is “If people can get vaccinated and still get COVID-19, does it even matter if you’re vaccinated?” The answer is yes. Absolutely, yes. Although you can still get COVID-19 while vaccinated, you are much less likely to:
• Get infected in the first place
• Transmit the virus to others
• Have severe symptoms and require hospitalization
Right now, the majority of people in the hospital due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated. And the more people who get vaccinated against COVID-19, the more we can move forward in our fight against the virus.
Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published. But note that our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 are developing and changing very rapidly; if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and vaccinations, please talk to your healthcare provider.