In an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released on Friday, experts state that the COVID-19 Delta variant is more transmissible than the common cold, seasonal flu, and smallpox, and just as contagious as chickenpox. The New York Times was among several news outlets to obtain a copy of the internal document and reported that while CDC experts have publicly claimed that transmission of the Delta variant is rare among those who are vaccinated, internally "scientists have suggested it may be more common than once thought."
According to the documents' findings, the CDC says that the Delta variant, specifically, is more transmittable than any other known versions of the virus, and as contagious as chickenpox, citing numerous "breakthrough" infection cases. "I think people need to understand that we're not crying wolf here. This is serious," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN. "It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about. Measles, chickenpox, this — they're all up there."
After a dip in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the U.S. is now averaging roughly 71,000 new cases per day, though it's still mostly among the unvaccinated. As a result of the rising cases, the CDC implemented new mask guidelines for vaccinated people on Tuesday, urging everyone to wear masks indoors despite having been inoculated. The New York Times now reports those guidelines were made as a result of the internal document, which highlights scientists' growing concern of the Delta variant. "Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential," the document said.
As of July 24, the CDC says there are around 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among vaccinated Americans, which is why the CDC is now urging people who have been vaccinated to continue to wear masks — especially if they are in contact with young children who cannot receive a vaccine, older adults (despite their vaccination status), immunocompromised people, and others who are vulnerable to COVID-19.
So, what does this mean for you? If you're vaccinated, you're still best protected from COVID and the Delta variant. It does not mean you're completely immune, but even if you do contract the Delta variant, you are less likely to end up hospitalized as a result.
However, it also means being more vigilant as a result of others not taking the COVID and its variants seriously. This is especially true if you live in an area with a high infection rate, or a state governed by a politician who is making it that much harder for businesses to protect their employees and customers from COVID-19. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill blocking all COVID-19 safety measures, including mask mandates. Now, Florida is seeing over 17,000 new cases a day — the highest number since January and the 4th highest jump in the pandemic's history.
Similarly, on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill strengthening already existing bans on mask and vaccine mandates, restricting "any entity that receives public funding or loans of any kind from requiring masks or vaccines," as reported by Newsweek. Houston Texas hospitals are now experiencing a "fourth wave" of Covid cases.
In a continued effort to curb the rising spread of COVID, President Joe Biden announced all federal employees would be required to get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID testing, and urged states to incentivize people to get vaccinated — including paying people $100 if they get their first vaccination shot.
"This is an American tragedy. People are dying — and will die — who don't have to die. If you're out there unvaccinated, you don't have to die," President Biden said during a speech at the White House. "Read the news. You'll see stories of unvaccinated patients in hospitals, as they're lying in bed dying from COVID-19, they're asking, 'Doc, can I get the vaccine?' The doctors have to say, 'Sorry, it's too late.'"
Per the CDC, vaccines will continue to be the most effective way to curb illness rates. "The CDC is very concerned with the data coming in that Delta is a very serious threat that requires action now," one official said. And as the internal document read, it is time to "acknowledge the war has changed."