The bad news: The highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus now makes up the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).(1) Although almost all hospitalizations and deaths are occurring with unvaccinated people, even some vaccinated people are picking up breakthrough infections, and can become carriers in spreading the virus.
The good news: Even as the delta variant gains ground, the overall COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States are at levels far lower than the peaks seen earlier in the pandemic. (2) Vaccines available in the US have been proven effective against this and other COVID variants, so the risk is vanishingly low for those who are fully vaccinated, compared with those who are not.
The rapid, but uneven, rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in the United States has made one thing clear: Severe COVID-19 is now largely a disease in unvaccinated people. At this point, well over 99% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are occurring in unvaccinated people.
While older adults and people with existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, more people under age 40 are ending up in hospitals. (5)
Mask-wearing is still an important form of controlling this pandemic. With so many unknowns, it makes sense to wear face coverings when indoors in public spaces or outside in crowded areas. Remember: your mask is protecting others from a virus you may be carrying without even knowing.
Recent research shows that for two-dose vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine, getting the second dose is crucial for full protection. (3)
The COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved in the United States for children under 12 years old. On July 9, the CDC updated its guidance for K-12 schools, emphasizing getting as many older children vaccinated before the fall as possible. (6)
For younger children, mask wearing, physical distancing, increased ventilation, and other measures will be needed to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in schools.
For people who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, masking, physical distancing, and other measures remain key ways to protect themselves from the coronavirus, including the highly infective delta variant.
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