What is the Delta variant? Will my vaccine protect me? Should I put the mask back on? These are a few questions that many people have in reaction to the worldwide news about “the Delta”. We’ll try to answer them in condensed form and localize this reason for high anxiety in the healthcare world.
First, the Delta variation of Covid-19 is a natural mutation of the original strain which emerged in late 2019. Prior to this latest strain of the virus, the “UK”, the “South African”, and the “Brazilian” variations arrived as mutant children of that novel coronavirus. Just recently, another mutation called the “Lambda”, originating from Peru, has been found in the United States. The Delta variant is more contagious than its predecessors and is finding ways to infect humans who have already been exposed to the virus, or vaccine. To date those, “breakthrough infections,” are only very rarely causing serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
The current data on the Delta re-infecting those who have already had Covid-19 is hard to collect, but re-infections are occurring, most mild. Breakthrough infections for those who have received vaccinations seem to vary by vaccine, but all vaccines appear to prevent serious illness. The Astra-Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson jabs appear to be less effective in preventing re-infections than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Every vaccine seems to be achieving the main goal: to prevent hospitalization and death from the virus. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles Public Health Chief, laid the reality clear to NPR: “99% percent of the people who are positive, 99% of the people who are hospitalized, 99.8% of the people who are passing away unfortunately and tragically in LA County are people who are unvaccinated..”
Based on emerging data, it seems logical to believe that the unvaccinated will be the most impacted as this coronavirus mutates and spreads. In Allegany County, that logic is creating a real possibility: That the healthcare capacity could be overwhelmed if the Delta variant, or the inevitable next variant, sweeps the unvaccinated population. That number currently stands at about 60% in Allegany county, who have more unvaccinated people per thousand than any county in NY. However you do the math, Allegany County citizens and economy are in a risky position as Covid-19 is reinvigorated by mutations and colder weather.
Do you have to wear a mask again? As it stands today, if you have not been vaccinated you should be wearing a mask in public. If you have been previously infected, or taken the jab but are concerned about “breakthrough infections”, you should wear a mask, specifically indoor public settings like grocery stores. For those who are vaccinated and not worried about a possible infection by variant, you can remain unmasked unless required by a private business or public institution. Citizens of places like Allegany County should prepare to ‘mask up’ this autumn and winter unless vaccination rates dramatically improve. Visit the Allegany County Department of Health for more information on upcoming vaccine clinics. You can also contact your primary physician or local pharmacy.