On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, who live in areas where COVID-19 is surging, begin wearing masks again indoors in public places.
This is not a reversal of their previous recommendation that vaccinated people could go unmasked. It is science based on new information that shows that:
- The delta variant of COVID-19 is at least twice as contagious as the original virus, and
- New studies show that vaccinated people who do have a breakthrough case of the delta variant of the virus can transmit it to others. This was not thought to be true with the original virus.
The delta variant was first discovered in India in late 2020 and in the United States in March 2021. It now accounts for the majority of cases in the United States. Health experts say it’s typical for a new strain of a virus to be more contagious because it often becomes much more efficient and easily transmitted. This has been documented in previous pandemics, like the 1918 flu pandemic.
COVID-19 vaccines offer significant protection against the variants of the virus. Variants may still break through a vaccine. If that happens, being vaccinated can help you have a milder case of COVID-19 and hopefully avoid any hospitalization. Studies show that it is critical to get both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine also protects against the delta variant.
Arkansas and the delta variant
Arkansas health officials warn that the delta variant is making younger people sicker, and anyone not vaccinated is at risk for severe illness, or even death. Sadly, it also has been a factor in the hospitalization and deaths of several women who were pregnant.
The CDC ranks Arkansas as one of the lowest states in the country in the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated.
“This virus doesn’t know any boundaries,” Dr. Creshelle Nash, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s medical director for Health Equity and Public Programs, said. “Our healthcare system is struggling to care for people, but there’s a way to prevent that through vaccination. To protect your family, friends and community from this new variant, it’s critical to get vaccinated sooner rather than later. While you are waiting to achieve full immunization, and even after, it is still important to keep wearing a mask, watching your distance are others and washing your hands.”
Anyone who is 12 years and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available to anyone over 18.