by Eileen West, MD, FACP
The Delta variant which first appeared in India and has now been identified in 96 countries, has now become the dominant strain in the United States, representing more than half of all new cases. It is believed to be 50% more transmissible than earlier coronavirus strains, and 2.5 times more likely to infect people under age 50.
Vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19. Yet only 48.5% of Americans are fully vaccinated (less than half of the population). Vaccination protects VERY WELL against serious illness and death against the Delta variant. In the past six months, more than 99% of new COVID cases (99.3%), COVID hospitalizations (99.1%), and COVID deaths (99.6%) are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. COVID deaths are now PREVENTABLE. Receiving only one dose of two-dose vaccines does not offer great protection against the Delta variant (only 33%). It has yet to be determined whether or when a booster will be necessary.
Additionally, a lot of people are finding it confusing to know when to wear a mask. If you are either immunocompromised or unvaccinated, wearing a mask is strongly recommended in all indoor settings with other unvaccinated individuals, or those whose vaccine status is unknown. Masks are not necessary in outdoor settings. If you are fully vaccinated, you can meet up with other fully vaccinated individuals indoors or outdoors with a high degree of safety. The risk of catching COVID drops even further when most people in the community (such as in Fairfax County where 2/3rds of adults) are fully vaccinated. Infection rates are remaining low in these communities despite the Delta variant. Even if a vaccinated individual contracts COVID, the chances of passing it to another vaccinated individual is virtually zero. If you have additional questions, there is lots of valuable information on the CDC COVID home page, or feel free to contact the office for answers.