Just as the world was starting to open back up from the COVID-19 pandemic, the B.1.617.2 variant, better known as the Delta variant, has begun to run rampant in nearly 100 countries.
The Delta variant originated in India and is thought to be more contagious than other COVID-19 variants, according to The New York Times. Unvaccinated individuals are actually twice as likely to be hospitalized for the Delta variant compared to those infected with the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the Alpha variant, which has been the most dominant variant in the U.S. to date.
Concerns have also been raised about the Delta variant’s resistance to the existing COVID-19 vaccines. But, studies have shown that the vaccines authorized in the U.S., especially the Pfizer vaccine, offers protection against all COVID-19 strains. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson has reported that vaccine has also been found to be effective.
The Delta variant has accounted for approximately 26.1% of cases in the U.S. as of June 19, according to the interactive tracker designed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some U.S. regions, including New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are experiencing substantially-higher rates of cases linked to this variant, accounting for approximately 18% of all COVID-19 cases in these areas, according to Forbes.
Overall, all U.S. regions are experiencing an increase of cases linked to this variant, but the four regions that include the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama , Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia only saw approximately 4-6% of cases linked by this variant.
When it comes to wearing masks to protect against the Delta variant, the CDC has not yet changed its stance that all vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks. But, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently urged all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, to continue wearing masks and to follow other COVID-19 safety procedures in an effort to minimize the spread of this new variant.
“Vaccines alone won’t stop community transmission,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, Assistant Director-General, Access to Medicines and Health Products, for the WHO, according to CNBC. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene … the physical distancing, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”