While we have officially surpassed the half-way mark of all Americans being fully vaccinated, many of us find ourselves asking why restrictions are beginning to tighten, rather than relax.
Relaxed guidelines and increased social mixing in combination with roughly 40 percent of the eligible US population being unvaccinated means that the coronavirus is still circulating widely in our communities . Wherever the virus continues to circulate, there is a chance of mutations in the virus occurring - or the development of a virus variant. When a virus infects one of us it replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little as it does so. These changes are called “mutations”. A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus.
Currently the Delta variant is the predominant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the United States, making up 93% of samples sequenced, according to the CDC.
What is the Delta variant?
Almost twice as contagious (or transmissible) as previous strains of the virus, the Delta variant spreads faster and is associated with more severe illness than other variants. According to the World Health Organization, ninety-six countries have cases of the Delta variant to date, with an expectation that the number will continue to rise . Fortunately, vaccination is still effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalization even against the Delta variant.
Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, meaning that they are vulnerable to the more contagious and more virulent Delta variant, which is a concern for parents as schools open up again.
The benefit of being vaccinated
Vaccines are extremely effective against severe illness and they can greatly slow the spread of disease in the community. However, not everyone is vaccinated yet so the virus is still circulating widely and because of this, it is possible to become infected with the coronavirus - known as a breakthrough infection. And while data is pointing to a shorter transmission window for vaccinated individuals with the virus, it is still possible.
What precautions can we take
Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC and WHO have laid out guidelines that we can all adhere to in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus as we head into autumn:
- Clean your hands often
- Wear a mask in public indoor places
- Avoid crowded spaces and keep your distance from others
- Ensure good ventilation when indoors, i.e. open windows
- Get tested when you have symptoms, whether you are vaccinated or not
Even if you are fully vaccinated, the CDC has recommended that if you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until you receive a negative test result .
The LetsGetChecked solution
LetsGetChecked offers multiple coronavirus testing solutions including home-collect PCR tests, and sequencing for variants. Our test has Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA to test for coronavirus in individuals aged two years and older, and is used by schools and employers around the world. The accuracy of our test is not affected by the Delta variant, but our clinical team continues to track new variants, for the impact on our test, if any.
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