AUSTIN, Texas — New evidence about the severity of the COVID-19 delta variant details why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed its masking recommendations this week, asking all individuals to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status when in high-transmission communities.
The document showed evidence the contagious delta variant spreads as easily as chickenpox and easier than the flu or common cold.
It also points out, "breakthrough infections," or vaccinated people who contracted the virus, are equally as likely to spread the delta variant as those who did not get the shots.
The document was first obtained and released by The Washington Post on Thursday.
The Associated Press took a deep dive into this document here. KVUE also spoke with COVID-19 experts in the Austin area about how these findings translate to the local communities.
Maureen Johnson-León, a data equity specialist on the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas, explained the delta variant will spread faster in high-risk communities, including the Austin area, despite high vaccination rates if people do not wear masks. This is because the variant has a higher viral load.
"That means anybody who is infected with delta is more likely to transmit it to other people. Delta also transmits more quickly. Delta is fast," Johnson-León said.
Breakthrough cases are also pushing people to question the efficacy of the vaccines. But Johnson-León said there is no reason to, since the vaccines are still working extremely well against keeping people out of the hospital.
"Yes, there are breakthrough infections and it appears that some people may be able to transmit the virus forward," Johnson-León said. "But again, and just to clarify everything, the vaccine protects you from being hospitalized, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing to have in the event of a more transmissible variant."
The leaked documents also highlighted the CDC's admission that it must improve its communication with the public about the delta variant.
Dr. Rodney Rohde is the chair and professor of Clinical Laboratory Science at Texas State University and has followed COVID-19 since its origins in the U.S. He explained improved communication is an essential part to improving people's trust in the vaccine and gaining trust in the research.
“It will be critical for CDC and other public health and health care experts to effectively communicate the complexities of this delta variant. Vaccines are critical and we need to consider strong messaging regarding masking, especially in high-risk environments," Reed said.
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