The Delta coronavirus variant that is surging across the United States appears to spread as efficiently as chickenpox and likely causes more severe illness, according to an internal document from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The document, which was a slide presentation, was able to analyze unpublished data that revealed that fully vaccinated individuals with a breakthrough infection do, in fact, spread the Delta variant at the same rate as the unvaccinated.
“The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold,” the Washington Post reported.
“I think people need to understand that we’re not crying wolf here. This is serious,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with CNN.
“It’s one of the most transmissible viruses we know about. Measles, chickenpox, this—they’re all up there,” she added.
New Mask Guidance
Earlier this week, the CDC issued new guidance recommending indoor mask use in areas with high transmission rates.
“We’re seeing now that it’s actually possible if you’re a rare breakthrough infection that you can transmit further, which is the reason for the change,” Walensky told reporters during a media briefing.
“It is not a welcomed piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated. This new data weighs heavily on me, this new guidance weighed heavily on me and I just wanted to convey that this was not a decision that was taken lightly,” she continued.
Due to the highly contagious Delta variant, new coronavirus cases have risen in all fifty states in recent weeks. The current seven-day average of daily infections is sitting at roughly sixty-seven thousand, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s a sizeable 53 percent jump from just a week ago.
The latest estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are indicating that nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 57 percent have had at least one vaccine dose.
“If we are able to get the vast majority of people vaccinated and if, in the meantime until they are fully vaccinated, we had everybody wearing masks, we can stop this in its tracks,” Walensky said in an interview with Healthline.
On Friday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, warned that COVID-19 is significantly more widespread in the United States than what the official case counts show.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, on the whole, we’re infecting up to a million people a day right now, and we’re just picking up maybe a tenth of that or less than a tenth of that,” he said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.