Warning bells are going off in the CDC. The Delta Covid variant is spreading rapidly across the world. High vaccination rates in the U.S. and the warm summer months have bought the country some extra time, but outbreaks across the world are giving Americans a preview of what may come this fall.
The delta variant was declared a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization in May. The designation is used when there is increased evidence that a variant is more transmissible, causes more severe illness or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments. In the U.S., the CDC declared delta a “variant of concern” on June 15.
The Delta variant is particularly dominant in parts of the Midwest and the Upper Plains regions, where the CDC estimates it now accounts for upwards of 74% of new COVID infections. Delta has hit the states with the lowest vaccination rates the hardest, In North Carolina.
Many of those states lag in vaccinations, with rates trailing the national average. For southern states west of the Mississippi, and New York and New Jersey, the share of new cases due to the Delta variant is between 55% and 60%. In all other regions in the country, the Delta variant accounts for roughly 30% to 40% of new cases, according to the CDC data.
What is the Delta Variant
The Delta Variant is more contagious variant of the coronavirus. The delta variant, which was first identified in India, is now the most dominant version in the United States. Delta is 55% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was itself around 50% more transmissible than the original Wuhan virus.3 Some countries, notably Australia, South Africa and Asia has been on lock down.
With new mutations discovered every few weeks, many scientists now predict that Covid will continue circulating around the world for at least the next two to three years, requiring nations to re institute public health measures on an ad hoc basis for the foreseeable future.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, say’s, he foresees that in certain parts of the country, there could be a reintroduction of indoor mask mandates, distancing and occupancy limits” in the coming months.
The Risks of Two Americas this Fall
There are about 1,000 counties in the United States that have Covid vaccination coverage of less than 30%, mostly located in the Southeast and Midwest.
Texas and California are the two largest states in the US. In California, 19,949,682 people or 50% of states population has been fully vaccinated. In Texas, 12,091,994 people or 41% of states population has been fully vaccinated.
In response to the spread of the delta variant, the World Health Organization advised that people, regardless of their vaccination status, should continue to wear masks. The CDC has meanwhile stood by its guidance that says fully vaccinated people can largely forgo masks, though the agency acknowledged that local rules may change based on the situation on the ground.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles County, one of the nation’s largest and the most populous, recommended that everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks indoors.
Last May, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus. Local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the Executive Order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
In addition to Texas (vaccination ranking 42 out of 50), Florida (rank 26), Arkansas (rank 49) and Iowa (rank 22), have moved via legislation or executive action to prevent cities, counties and school districts from instituting their own mask rules.