As the Delta variant continues to spread across the world some countries are taking measures to stop it. Some are delaying reopening, going back on lockdown and others are reinstituting mask mandates. Closer to home, L.A. health officials are recommending people wear masks indoors. Riverside County health officials say the variant is here too but they’re monitoring cases and still following the state’s guidelines that say vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most situations. They are urging for everyone to get vaccinated to prevent community spread from surging.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco says the Delta variant makes up almost all new cases in the U.K. and growing quickly in the U.S. too, “We are already seeing a doubling of cases every two weeks in the United States of Delta, it’s set to take over the landscape, it’s kind of like a bulldog or a Colin McGregor or a Mike Tyson, it comes in, it bites the community and it doesn’t let go.”
He says this variant is much more contagious, “That particular mutation makes it much stickier, so you have a stickier virus, a virus that’s higher in number with viral load and people putting out virus for many more days than the regular COVID, these are all features that make it more transmissible.”
Dr. Chin-Hong says the virus is following a pattern we’ve seen before, “As cases increase which they inevitably will because of the movement of people plus Delta you would see that recommendation possibly turn into a stronger mandate for indoor settings … I was all set to sort of throw away my mask in the grocery store but given this uncertainty and
what’s happening in Israel and the UK, what’s already starting to happen in the United States yet even though I’m fully vaccinated particular in crowded, indoor settings where I don’t know the vaccination status of everyone in the room.”
And while no vaccine is 100 percent effective, he says the ones available offer the best protection against severe COVID, even with the variant, “You can still get infected but it’s very low probability if there’s a lot of Delta circulating but you’re hot going to get hospitalized in fact the studies show that the vaccine prevents hospitalizations by more than 95 percent even with Delta if you’ve been fully vaccinated.”
Experts say the mRNA vaccines are proving to be more effective than the Johnson and Johnson vaccine against the variant, still he says he does not advise people get boosters until the research is in and we know more on the best protocol.
He says variants only reinforce the importance of vaccination, “The whole reason why we’re still continuing to talk about variants and they seem to be scarier and scarier as time goes on is that we can’t get enough people vaccinated it takes two weeks to get a new mutation or new variant … you need a chain of susceptible people who are not vaccinated to make
that happen, if everyone was vaccinated the virus can’t replicate and can’t transmit itself and that’s the only way it creates variants.”
He says those who are relying on partial vaccination or immunity from a previous infection may not fare too well with this variant , “Delta is going to be less forgiving if you just got one out of two shots and less forgiving if you’ve had immunity from getting COVID before and right now we have this false sense of security because we’ve had so many COVID cases over the winter surge that a lot of people who are unvaccinated have natural immunity but I think Delta is going to exploit that because it’s going to evade that immunity.”
With less than half of the people in the U.S. fully vaccinated, the Fourth of July, more travel, plus the variant could spell trouble.
“What will happen with summertime with Delta circulating is you’re going to see local and regional surges and in these regional areas there’s going to be a turn back of liberties and I think that’s going to be discouraging for a lot of people so we can prevent that just by going out and getting vaccinated, I know that sounds like a broken record but it really is going to be true,” says Dr. Chin-Hong.