Delta variant makes the case for universal precautions

Italian researchers find evidence of COVID-19 months before pandemic; Seoul cracks down on high-exertion exercise, and experts call on mandatory COVID-19 shots for hospital workers

Some observations and comment, then headlines.

While the COVID-19 cases across the USA mostly follow anticipated patterns, some of the confusion and division continues to surprise many of us. My take:1

  • If you are fully vaccinated and have no major underlying health conditions, you are generally safe to carry on as if there was no pandemic.

  • If you are in an area where the delta variant is known to be actively spreading, social distancing is probably a good idea, and consider using a mask if going into an indoor public place or a crowded outdoor public space.

  • If you have vulnerable family members or others in your circle or if you have kids under 12 or anyone else who is unvaccinated, all the “old rules” still apply: keep those face coverings on as much as possible, don’t get too close, and be diligent about hygiene.

Providing guidance that applies universally is becoming almost as difficult now as it was a year ago, before COVID-19 was spread throughout the nation. As noted last week, conditions vary widely even from one community to another one nearby.

If you are in a place with very high vaccination rates, there is reason to feel safe. However, if you travel to a community with low vaccination rates, the COVID-19 risk likely is even higher than it was before, because the delta variant appears to jump from person to person much easier than prior COVID-19 strains.

In a room full of unvaccinated people without masks, one infected person likely passes delta to 3-4 others, about 50% more than earlier strains.2 Delta is estimated to be three times more infectious than other COVID strains overall, although we don’t know yet whether it is more deadly. And don’t count on loss of sense of smell as a sign. Delta variant symptoms appear to be more like a typical cold.3

This is why educators and others are trying to find ways to simplify guidelines. California authorities issued a universal mask mandate Tuesday and changed it less than 24 hours later, undoubtedly muddling the main message: anyplace where unvaccinated individuals (including anyone under 12) gather is a place where COVID-19 risk remains high. By requiring everyone to mask-up, there is less risk of bullying, discrimination or awkwardness — and everyone’s safety improves.

COVID-19 news of note

That’s it for today.

1

Please check with your own healthcare providers or local public health departments for advice that applies best to your situation.