The delta variant of the COVID-19 is one of the most infectious respiratory diseases ever seen by scientists, says the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New data shows that the variant is highly contagious because people infected with the delta strain can carry up to 1,000 times more virus in their nasal passages than those infected with the original strain.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director, told reporters at a briefing on Thursday that the delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains. “It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of, and that I have seen in my 20-year career,” he said. “This virus has no incentive to let up, and it remains in search of the next vulnerable person to infect.”
In the United States, the virus is ripping through counties with low vaccination rates, while states with high vaccination rates are seeing lower rates of new cases. Texas, Florida and Missouri – the three states with low vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all new cases nationwide. In hospitals across the country, 97% of people admitted with COVID symptoms are unvaccinated, and 99.5% of all COVID deaths are also among the unvaccinated.
“We are at yet another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas, we need to come together as one nation,” Walensky said. Capitol doctor Brian Monahan said he is not reinstating a mask mandate for the House and Senate office buildings, but in a letter to Hill offices on Tuesday, he warned the delta variant is much more contagious and poses a dire health risk to unvaccinated individuals.
A top Democrat, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer didn’t rule out a return to mask mandates in the Capitol, which were lifted two months ago. “We are going to have to talk about whether we are going back to masks.” Hoyer said Monahan is actively monitoring the cases in the Capitol and is in close communication with congressional leaders about whether to update the guidance.
Senator Jack Reed, a senior Democrat, floated the possibility of proof of vaccination to enter the Capitol, a scenario that would be highly unlikely but illustrates the level of anxiety across the sprawling campus. “You might need proof of vaccination to get in,” Reed said citing data that people who are becoming seriously ill are now almost all unvaccinated. He added that the variant would be a major consideration as the Capitol inches towards normalcy and a full reopening.