‘The war has changed,’ against new delta variant, internal CDC presentation says

The coronavirus delta variant may be as contagious as chickenpox and cause more severe illness than previous variants, according to an internal presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Vaccines continue to be highly effective, especially at preventing severe illness and death, but may be less effective at preventing infection or transmission of the delta variant, according to a CDC slide deck first obtained by The Washington Post

The slides were shared within the CDC and cite some of the data — both published and unpublished — that drove the recent shift in the CDC’s masking recommendations. “Acknowledge the war has changed,” the CDC wrote in the report. 

One major takeaway from the slides is that at current levels of vaccination in the U.S., delta will continue to spread exponentially without other mitigation measures in place, such as masking of vaccinated people. “Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission of the delta variant,” according to the presentation. 

On Tuesday (July 27), the CDC updated its mask guidance to say that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in areas with substantial coronavirus transmission, Live Science previously reported. The delta variant is “different from previous strains,” according to the slides. It is “highly contagious,” “likely more severe,” and “breakthrough infections may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases,” according to the summary slide. 

There are currently about 35,000 symptomatic breakthrough infections (with any variant) per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans, according to the report. Currently, the risk of symptomatic disease is reduced eightfold and the risk of hospitalization and death is reduced 25-fold among those who are fully vaccinated versus those who are unvaccinated, those national estimates suggest.

However, the risk of infection with the delta variant is likely only reduced threefold in those who are vaccinated,  according to the slides.

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