Understanding the Delta Variant, Mask Guidelines, and Vaccinations

Aug 9, 2021 | COVID-19, GTM Blog


The CDC updated its mask guidelines as an emerging variant of COVID-19 known as Delta spreads across the country. Why is this variant concerning health experts? And what does it mean for vaccinated individuals?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced updates to its mask guidelines as an emerging variant of COVID-19 known as Delta spreads across the country:

The CDC’s updated guidance now recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor settings when in areas with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19. More than 60 percent of U.S. counties have high or substantial transmission of COVID-19, according to CDC data. The guidelines also recommend masks be worn by all individuals in K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, the CDC encourages community leaders to promote vaccination and mask-wearing as preventive measures against COVID-19.

This update from the CDC is, in part, a reversal from previous agency guidance, which allowed fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing a mask in most settings.

CDC guidance is not legally binding so it is up to states and local officials to establish their own mask rules. Check your local and state health agency websites for additional guidance.

For household employers, this may mean asking your nanny, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask when in your home especially if they are caring for children who are unable to be vaccinated. You may also want to have your nanny and children be masked if they go places indoors like libraries, movie theatres, grocery stores, and museums.

The Delta Variant spreads

This spike in COVID-19 cases, specifically in areas with low vaccination rates, is being traced to the Delta variant, which was first seen in India in December 2020. The variant has quickly moved across the globe, and it is now circulating in the U.S.

Delta is a highly infectious form of COVID-19. According to CDC data, it is currently the most common variant of the coronavirus in the United States by a significant margin, accounting for more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases. Although COVID-19 vaccines are largely effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, some cases of Delta have been found to be contagious, even for fully vaccinated individuals.

The CDC has expressed that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting against the Delta variant, and they have been found to reduce the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

What is the Delta Variant?

As an increasingly dominant variant of the coronavirus, Delta has spread to at least 100 countries. Here’s what health experts have discovered about Delta:

  • Delta is about 40 to 60 percent more contagious and transmissible than the other virus variants, according to U.K. pandemic experts.
  • Unvaccinated people are at risk. Based on a U.K. study, unvaccinated children and adults under 50 years were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta than other variants.
  • Delta could lead to hyperlocal outbreaks in areas with low vaccination rates that are surrounded by highly vaccinated areas.

There is still much to learn about Delta, so experts continue to study the variant in real-world conditions – specifically in the United States.

How is the Delta Variant different?

So far, experts have shared the following general ways that Delta affects people differently than the original COVID-19 variant:

  • Delta is more transmissible than other variants.
  • A Delta infection can result in higher hospitalization rates for unvaccinated people.
  • Cough and loss of smell are less common symptoms of Delta.

Because of these significant differences, health experts agree that the Delta variant is concerning and will further impact the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does this mean for vaccinations?

The good news is that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. seem to work well against the Delta variant – drastically reducing the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalization, and death for vaccinated individuals.

Additionally, research suggests that people who have recovered from COVID-19 still need to be vaccinated to fend off any coronavirus variants.

As new variants test the protections of the available vaccines, vaccine manufacturers are researching and developing booster shots. However, the CDC says fully-vaccinated Americans do not need a booster dose at this time.

The pandemic is an ongoing risk assessment, so health experts and the CDC will continue to monitor, research, and update their recommendations to account for implications related to Delta. Vaccination offers the best protection against all coronavirus variants.

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