CBS News reports there has been an alarming number of new infections in the past month (more than a 120 percent jump) and the CDC says the Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of infections. CNN reports this variant -- which was first identified in India, then was found in the United Kingdom and has been found in all 50 states in America -- is "highly contagious" and a study found this form of the virus "may transmit faster than other strains because it makes more copies of itself inside our bodies at a faster rate."
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, warns, "This is the most contagious version of the virus we have seen throughout the whole pandemic... It's really very contagious."
What This Means for the Unvaccinated
The Delta variant should be a major concern for those who are unvaccinated experts stress. "There's so much more virus around, people who are infected have such high viral loads, but even short periods of time -- five minutes, seven minutes, you don't even have to be within six feet," Dr. Jha tells CNN. "For people who are unvaccinated, they are getting infected with much, much shorter exposure."
If you have not been fully vaccinated, COVID safety precautions need to be taken CNN's health experts advise. "If you are unvaccinated, you are at great risk right now," US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy explained. "And you should take measures if you're unvaccinated, like masking, distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings."
Additional stats that those who are unvaccinated (which is still less than half of all Americans) should take note of, per CNN:
- "More than 97% of people getting hospitalized with COVID-19 now are unvaccinated"
- "99.5% of deaths are among the unvaccinated"
What Vaccinated People Need to Know
While the vast majority of infections of the Delta variant are in unvaccinated people, breakthrough infections are still possible, but The New York Times notes, "Breakthrough infections — those occurring in vaccinated people — are still relatively uncommon... and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so."
CNN's Dr. Leana Wen explains an important aspect of being vaccinated is being protected from getting really sick and dying if a breakthrough infection does occur. "The vaccines also protect against becoming ill from Covid-19, but this protection is not 100 percent. With the Delta variant, the vaccines may be even less effective against mild disease — though still effective against severe disease... That means breakthrough infections — or infections in people who are fully vaccinated — can and do happen," she says, further noting if you live somewhere with high rates of infection or low vaccination rates, this could put you at higher risk. "It matters what's going on around you even if you are fully vaccinated. Risk is additive. The vaccine protects you well, but if you are constantly exposed to people who are carrying coronavirus, at some point you could have a breakthrough infection," she explains.
But do vaccinated people need to begin practicing the safety precautions that unvaccinated people are advised to follow?
"A vaccinated person around other fully vaccinated people is probably pretty safe and would not need precautions like masking and distancing," Dr. Wen tells CNN. "On the other hand, a vaccinated person who is exposed constantly to unvaccinated people, in crowded, indoor settings where no one is wearing masks, could become infected themselves. And even if they don't have symptoms, there is definitely the possibility that they could carry the virus and infect others."
She warns, "Until we know more about whether those vaccinated but contract the Delta variant could transmit it to others, I would urge people to be cautious if they live at home with unvaccinated or immunocompromised family members. They should consider wearing masks in indoor spaces like grocery stores and trying to avoid high-risk settings like crowded bars where others around them are unmasked and have unknown vaccination status."
All the experts stress the best defense against the Delta variant is to be fully vaccinated and health experts urge anyone who has not been vaccinated to get the shot ASAP.
Find out where to get your free COVID-19 vaccine, here or search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you in the U.S.