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What is the COVID-19 'Delta Variant'?

A "Variant of Concern" according to the CDC
Posted: 3:49 PM, Jun 22, 2021
Updated: 2021-06-22 20:17:01-04
Delta Variant

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KERO) — President Joe Biden said he wanted herd immunity by the Fourth of July so that we could celebrate our freedom from the virus. Last month the president said he wanted 70 percent of all eligible Americans vaccinated. However, White House officials say we won't meet that goal just yet but that we are meeting other goals.

"We have already met the president's 70% goal for all us adults, 30 and older. That's right. For those ages, 30 and above 70% have at least one shot," explained Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Coordinator.

The White House says we will likely meet the 70 percent marker in the next few weeks.

Reaching those markers is important as top health experts say the "Delta variant" (B.1.617.2), classified as a "Variant of Concern," has popped up in every state. The variant is spreading quickly, especially in children 12 and younger who can't get vaccinated yet.

Variant of Concern

A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

Possible attributes of a variant of concern:

In addition to the possible attributes of a variant of interest

  • Evidence of impact on diagnostics, treatments, or vaccines
    • Widespread interference with diagnostic test targets
    • Evidence of substantially decreased susceptibility to one or more class of therapies
    • Evidence of significant decreased neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination
    • Evidence of reduced vaccine-induced protection from severe disease
  • Evidence of increased transmissibility
  • Evidence of increased disease severity

Variants of concern might require one or more appropriate public health actions, such as notification to WHO under the International Health Regulations, reporting to CDC, local or regional efforts to control spread, increased testing, or research to determine the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments against the variant. Based on the characteristics of the variant, additional considerations may include the development of new diagnostics or the modification of vaccines or treatments.

Current variants of concern in the United States that are being closely monitored and characterized by federal agencies are included in the table below. The table will be updated when a new variant of concern is identified.

At a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said "The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19."

The Delta variant was first identified in India and is 40% more transmissible as patients are slower to show symptoms.

“It is more difficult, obviously, to manage this virus with the new Delta variant," Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary said.

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Researcher Peter Hotez says the southeast and western mountain states are most at risk for a significant surge this summer because of their slow vaccination rates.

"The numbers are coming down and they are. But remember, this time last year, they were also quite low. And then we saw that steep acceleration in July and August across our southern states. And so I do think there is a vulnerability, given the low vaccination rates that we have," Hotez said.

In California, public health officials say we've seen nearly 350 cases of the Delta variant.

Kern County Public Health says it has seen one case of the Delta variant, which originated in India. It also reports 2 cases of the Beta variant. The prevailing variant in Kern County is the Alpha variant with 49 cases.

Health experts say getting vaccinated is the key to preventing the spread of the Delta Variant and that some vaccinations on the market are effective against it.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky weighed in on the matter Tuesday.

"We know our vaccines work against this variant. However, this variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that invade our vaccine. And that's why it's more important than ever to get vaccinated now to stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant."

Health experts are concerned about this variant in particular with many saying it could have a resurgence later this year.

Right now it's still not clear when or if people will need a COVID-19 booster shot. Health officials have also talked about "seasonal masking" to help prevent surges later this year.