Just when we thought that the end of summer 2021 would bring us a reduction in COVID-19 cases and continued reopening of businesses and travel within the U.S, the delta variant of COVID-19 has causes a sharp increase in cases throughout the United States as well as an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations amoung the unvaccinated.
Seven states with the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccinations (Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi) are accounting for about 50% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but only represent about 25% of the total U.S. population.
COVID-19 related ICU admissions are up
Florida has seen an increase in COVID-19-related ICU admissions over the past 4 weeks, with an increase from a 7-day rolling average of 464 COVID-19-related ICU beds the week of June 28-July 4th, 2021 to a new high of 1890 COVID-19-related cases in the ICU the week of July 26th-August 1st, 2021 (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/hospitalization-7-day-trend/florida)
What is the COVID-19 Delta variant?
Almost all viruses go thru mutations as they replicate themselves, and depending on how accurate (or inaccurate) the viral replication is, some viruses will have hundreds or thousands of different mutations. One way the thing about these mutations is if you made a photocopy of a photo and then kept making a photocopy of the photocopy, eventually you would have something that looked much different than the original photo. In some cases, these mutations by the virus provide some type of competitive advantage, either making it either for the virus to spread, harder for the body’s immune system to fight off the virus or allows the virus to survive longer outside the body until it can infect another host.
The original COVID-19 virus (or SARS-CoV-2) originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and there have been several widespread variants documented starting with the COVID-19 Alpha variant from the U.K in October 2020, followed by the Beta variant (South Africa) and Gamma variant (Brazil) before the Delta variant was first reported in India in October 2020.
Why are scientists and doctors concerned about the COVID-19 Delta variant?
The major concern about the COVID-19 Delta variant is that this variant seems to be much more transmissible than the orginal COVID-19 virus or previous variants of the virus. The original COVID-19 had a reported R naught (Ro) factor between 1.4 and 2.4 (reference) which means that on average, someone infected with COVID-19 would infect an additional 1.4 to 2.4 people, and then those infected people would infect another 1.4 to 2.4 people. If the R0 factor is above 1.0, the virus continues to infect more and more people. If the R0 factor is below 1.0, then fewer and fewer people get infected and the spread of the virus slows.
The current predicted R0 factor is between 5 to 8, meaning that one person infected with the COVID-10 Delta variant can infect between 5 to 8 other people, and then those 5 to 8 people can each infect an additional 5 to 8 people each.
In just three rounds of infections, that’s a possible 4096 people infected in the third round of infections and potentially 4672 total people (64+512+4096) infected by just one person with the COVID-19 delta variant.
Learn more about COVID-19 variants here at the World Health Organization website.
Can I get COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?
Yes, you can still get COVID-19 even if you’re fully vaccinated for COVD-19. The vaccinations help decrease the severity of the infection but they don’t necessarily prevent you from getting the COVID-19 infection. The vaccine does help your body produce antibodies against COVID-19 so you can fight off the infection quicker. Most fully vaccinated people that contract COVID-19 are having mild cases of COVID-19 and are not ending up in the hospital or dying from COVID-19 infections.
If I have tested positive for COVID-19 should I retest?
If you have already recently tested positive for COVID-19, then you usually DO NOT need to retest. The rapid tests for COVID-19 look for pieces or viral partials and not the whole virus so it’s possible that you can continue to test positive for COVID-19 because these viral particles have not been fully cleared from your nasal passage. However, under current CDC guidelines, If you have been isolated for 10 days and do not have any symptoms such as fever, body aches, or nasal congestion, you aren’t considered infectious anymore and can come out of isolation are return to work or school as well as be around other people.
I’ve tested positive for COVID-19, can I find out if its the Delta variant?
Most of the current commercial COVID-19 tests do not test for the different variants, so its unlikely that your COVID test can tell you if you had the Delta variant or not. The good news is that in most cases, the treatment would be the same regardless of which COVID-19 variant you were infected with.
I got COVID-19 and haven’t been vaccinated. Should I still get vaccinated?
The CDC currently recommends that people who are unvaccinated and get COVID-19 should still get vaccinated since its currently not clear how long immunity from a COVID-19 infection lasts. Most people with mild COVID-19 infections can get vaccinated once they have recovered from their COVID-19 infection. However, if you were hospitalized, were given monoclonal antibodies, or developed MIS-A or MIS-C (Multisystem Inflammatory System in Adults or Children), you should wait 90 days after your COVID-19 infection to receive your vaccination.
Find out more facts about COVID-19 at the CDC website.