Just when we all thought we were in the clear, a new variant of COVID-19 emerged. It may have many people rethinking whether to go out and enjoy their new found freedom after being vaccinated – assuming they’ve been.
With everything changing constantly, it’s hard to keep up. Luckily, we’ve compiled the latest information.
Firstly, what does it mean for there to be a variant? A variant has one or more mutations that differentiate it from other variants in circulation. Those mutations can cause the following:
- Changes to receptor binding
- Reduced neutralization of antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination
- Reduced efficacy of treatments
- Potential diagnostic impact or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity
COVID-19 has other strains besides the delta variant but the mutation within this particular variant has made it much more deadly.
The Delta Variant, strain B.1.617.2, was first identified in India in December 2020. It has spike protein substitutions that give it different attributes to its progenitor. They are:
- Potential reduction in neutralization by some monoclonal antibody treatments
- Potential reduction in neutralization by post-vaccination sera
- Increase transmissibility
In short, the changes seen to the genetic material of the original COVID-19 have made it difficult to potentially treat COVID patients in the hospital setting using medications we used before this variant. It has also made it potentially more difficult for vaccines to be as effective. Unfortunately the increase in transmissibility is seen in the rising cases of COVID-19 amongst the unvaccinated.
As of July 22, 2021, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, stated in a white house briefing that there have been 46,318 new cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 35 thousand per day, which is an increase of 32 percent from the previous week (July 15, 2021). Daily deaths have increased to 237 per day, which is an increase of about 19 percent from the previous seven-day period. About 83 percent of these new cases are the Delta Variant. Unvaccinated individuals accounted for 97 percent of all COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the US.
Dr. Walensky and Dr. Fauci firmly stand by getting vaccinated to help flatten the curve. Those who have been fully vaccinated already have a high degree of protection against infection and an even higher degree of protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccine has proven to help fight the Delta Variant. The vaccines do not offer 100 percent immunity against COVID. Individuals who have had breakthrough infections are mild to moderate or generally asymptomatic.
People who remain unvaccinated are at the greatest disadvantage with this new variant. States with low vaccination rates have accounted for 40 percent of all cases in the U.S. On a positive note, states with the highest case rates have seen an increase of individuals seeking COVID-19 vaccinations.
Mask mandates vary for every state including its individual counties, but the CDC recommends wearing masks if you are not vaccinated, and if you are in an area that has a high case rate with low vaccination rates. If you’re vaccinated, it is your own personal choice to wear masks, unless your local government has required the use of them.
If you have friends and family who remain unvaccinated, have a conversation with them using this information. Ask them without judgement, what is holding them back from being vaccinated. Come from a place of concern rather than attacking their point of view. Avoid using heavy scientific jargon. Ask what they'd want you to do should they come down with COVID. Do they want to be intubated? In the worst-case scenario that there is no way of getting off a ventilator, do they want comfort measures to have a peaceful death? This can force your loved ones to think about the reality of the world we are currently living in. For more information, please visit CDC.gov.