Coronavirus- The Latest News and Information
As the United States attempts to return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials and scientists are worried that the highly contagious and rapidly spreading Delta variant is challenging the nation’s recovery efforts.
The Delta variant is now the dominant variant in the United States, accounting for 51 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to updated statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report also shows that the variant is causing 80 percent of new cases in the Midwest and 74.3 percent of infection in Western states, including Utah and Colorado.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Delta variant, first identified in India, has been detected in 98 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In England, the Delta variant accounts for over 90 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to United Kingdom (UK) Health Secretary Matt Hancock. What’s more, the risk for hospitalization is higher with the Delta variant than the Alpha variant, first identified in the UK.
Delta Plus Variant
If that weren’t enough, researchers in India have identified a sublineage of the Delta variant, which is nicknamed “Delta plus.” This newest virus has been reported in 11 countries, including the United States. But, investigators are not certain about whether the latest mutation carries any additional risks.
The CDC is also tracking the Gamma variant, first identified in the United States in January in Minnesota. So far, the variant has spread to at least 31 states and has been responsible for more than 8 percent of new COVID-19 cases as of June 15, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 tracker.
The Gamma variant was first detected in the Brazilian Amazon and is already considered the most dominant variant in Argentina. Statistics show that the Gamma variant accounts for 9 out of 10 coronavirus cases in Brazil.
Are Vaccines Effective Against The Variants?
The CDC reports that nearly 158 million, almost 48 percent, of the US population have been fully vaccinated, which means people have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
Studies have found that all three vaccines are effective against the variants. Some research focused on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines, including Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines. Rather than use a live virus to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make proteins that will trigger an immune response. Once activated, the body produces antibodies to fight the infection of an actual virus.
An analysis released in June by Public Health England (PHE) suggested that the Pfizer vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses.
One study conducted by researchers in Japan and the United States discovered mRNA vaccines induce antibody responses that protect humans from infection with the Gamma variant. The study was published June 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Another study published in the journal, Nature, suggested that the one-shot Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produces strong immune responses against variants by triggering the production of antibodies and stimulating T-cells that can destroy cells infected with the virus.
Variant Shares Symptoms With COVID-19
Researchers are finding that the variants share a few symptoms with COVID-19, but variant symptoms are more in line with those of a bad cold.
The most commonly reported variant symptoms include:
- Runny Nose
- Sore Throat
Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, says the Delta variant symptoms are changing, but the number one symptom is a headache.
Spector heads the Zoe Covid Symptom study, allowing individuals to enter their Covid symptoms on a ZOE app. Scientists analyze the data to learn more about the coronavirus disease and the severity of its symptoms.
Are Booster Shots Needed To Fight COVID-19?
Health officials and scientists suggest that people who have been vaccinated might need booster shots since it’s not clear how long the current vaccines will be effective against COVID-19 and its variants.
In May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy predicted that a booster shot may be needed within a year. On the other hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “we don’t know” if a booster shot will be needed.
Fauci advises against predicting that a booster shot will be needed “x number of months from now.”
“We may not need it for quite a while,” he said.
But, what many people still need is to get vaccinated to protect themselves against COVID-19 and its variants, Fauci said.
Keep Your Masks Handy
As the investigation into COVID-19 variants continues, some local governments are putting mask mandates back in place. Recently, in California, Los Angeles County health officials urged residents—including those who have been fully vaccinated—to wear masks when indoors at public places because of the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.
The WHO is urging people who are fully vaccinated to continue to wear a mask because of the threat of the highly transmissible variants. Dr. Shad Marvasti, director of Public Health, Prevention, and Health Promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, agrees with WHO’s recommendation.
“We don’t want to wait until after the fact and get caught with this thing already ahead of us when we know that masks work,” Marvasti said in a recent interview.
The CDC updated its Monitoring and Evaluation Action Guide for local governments, organizations, and communities regarding masks. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that in areas where there are low vaccination rates, local masking policies might be necessary to protect people who are not vaccinated.
Although the CDC updated its guide, Walensky said fully vaccinated people are “safe” from the current variants and do not need to wear masks. Marvasti, however, believes the CDC should align with the WHO’s directive.
“The CDC needs to act quickly, without waiting, to follow the WHO guidelines and ask everyone to put the masks back on so we can stay open, protect folks, and keep the economy going,” Marvasti said. “We’re already seeing preliminary numbers out of Israel were fully vaccinated people are getting sick.”
Since the WHO provides guidelines and information to the world, Walensky said she understands why the organization supports wearing masks since less than 15 percent of the global population has been vaccinated.
“Here in the United States, we’re fortunate, ” Walensky said in an interview in June. “We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective. We have two-thirds of the adult population that is fully vaccinated and quite protected from the variants that we have circulating here in the United States.”
To find a vaccine provider near you, visit Vaccines.gov or your state or local public health department website.
For updated information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s Data Tracker webpage at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home