Non-vaccinated communities could see a spike in the case of COVID-19 this fall as the delta variant makes its way to the U.S. Already, areas with the lowest vaccination rates they are beginning to see an increase in cases. Many Americans are wondering if they should wear them mask back on. (The answer is potentially yes.)
Dr. Charity Dean, CEO of Public Health Company, which offers a public health data platform for disease prevention, and senior assistant director of the California Department of Public Health, says the Delta variant is on a fast track to becoming the dominant strain in the U.S., such as it is in the UK
“Undervaccinated regions of the U.S. are likely to be hit with case cases in the coming weeks,” he said. “The good news: Because there are relatively high vaccination rates in older age groups, hospitalizations / deaths won’t be as big as previous waves.”
The variant is as much as 60% more transmissible than the initial form of COVID-19 and is believed to have an increased risk of hospitalization for people infected with it. “This applies only to those who are not vaccinated,” says Dr. Vivek Cherian, an internal medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System. So far, shots from Pfizer and AstraZeneca have proven to be still fairly effective against the delta variant. This week Modern released laboratory results showing its vaccines appeared to produce sufficient neutralizing antibodies to fight the delta variant. Even if a vaccinated person has been completely infected with the delta variant, the chance of serious infection or hospitalization is very low. The real risk is for people who have not been vaccinated, including children.
Some experts suggest that we will see cases rise again in the fall as people move back indoors, into offices, and into schools. Not quite half of all Americans have received both doses of the vaccine, although nearly 80% of people over 65 have. Public health experts like Cherian believe that while the number of cases with hospitalizations will be substantially lower this year, they expect to see a proportional spike in cases, especially in regions with a large number of unvaccinated people.
There are also some concerns about the spread of schools and the delta variant. Even though schools have not been hot spots for COVID-19 infection, children can still contract and transmit the disease. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for emergency use under the Food and Drug Administration for children 12-15 and to date more than 3 million have been vaccinated. The company is currently seeking emergency use for children over 5. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages 5-17 have less than 10% of COVID-19 cases in the United States. However, when there are a large number of cases in a community, COVID-19 is more likely to spread to schools. This puts regions where vaccination thresholds are low at increased risk for the delta variant. Some areas, such as Houston, have already seen an increase in cases among children.
In order to prevent yet another wave of COVID-19 cases and other new variants, health experts are struggling with the vaccinated public. “We want to get as many people who can be vaccinated in the shortest period of time as possible, “says Cherian.” The longer we delay that, you increase the chance — worst-case scenario — of this mutation into something else, or you get a completely different variant that our shots are much less effective against or completely effective against. “