The Delta Variant
Navigating the pandemic has been a lot like building a plane while you fly it. Leaders and officials had to make decisions and put together plans as the world was learning about how this new virus even works. We had to learn from our mistakes quickly and move on to the next challenge. We’ve come a long way since the beginning, however, there is still new information every day that changes the way we understand and respond to the pandemic.
The Delta variant is one of those new things that has changed the way we respond. The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first identified in India in October 2020. It has been associated with a significant increase in cases and has quickly spread so that it is now present in 132 countries and has been identified in all 50 U.S. states. It’s hard to know how many cases are in Spokane County because not every confirmed case is sequenced. We do know it has been found in a percentage of the cases sequenced in our region. We also know that since it is more transmissible, it will most likely become the dominant strain at some point. Scientists are also studying it to see how it impacts the severity of the illness, and there is evidence that it may cause higher rates of hospitalizations than other variants.
OK, let’s stop for a moment. This may sound alarming. However, remember we have learned a lot in the last year and a half. The rules to slow the spread of this variant are the same as we have found throughout the pandemic. First, the vaccines available are showing good protection from the variant. Even if an unlikely breakthrough case (meaning you get infected after being fully immunized) occurred, the vaccine would provide good protection against severe illness. The vaccine is the best line of defense. We also have other tools available like masking, testing, and social distancing. Each tool may have imperfections, but if used together the risk becomes low. Many health officials use the “Swiss cheese method” to help give a visual.
The Swiss Cheese Respiratory Virus Defense
Recognizing that no single intervention is perfect at preventing spread.
Adapted from virologydownunder.com
Each intervention (layer) has imperfections (holes)—multiple layers improve success.
The pandemic is not over, but we have some amazing tools to protect our community. It’s up to all of us to protect ourselves and those around us. The strongest protection we have is vaccination, but there are benefits of including other tools too. If you haven’t been vaccinated, visit vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov to take the first step to protecting yourself and your community.