What does the COVID-19 Delta variant mean for you?

After months of steady decline, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are once again on the rise. And positive COVID-19 tests are also trending up. This is especially true in areas with lower vaccination rates.

Graphic of an arrow moving upward across the continental united states with text stating, "COVID-19 cases across the United States have significantly increased since early June and continue to trend upward especially in areas with lower vaccination rates."

The main reason for this is due to a new variant of the COVID-19 virus known as the Delta variant. In fact, as of mid-July, it was responsible for more than 80 percent of new infections. The Delta variant has not only become the dominant type of COVID-19 virus circulating in the U.S., it’s also more transmissible (more easily passed from person to person) and more virulent (it makes people far sicker).

In a new white paper, our CVS Health, CVS Caremark and Aetna Chief Medical Officers explain how people who get the Delta variant carry far more virus “load” or copies of the virus when they get sick, which means they can infect more people than the original COVID-19 strain.

It's a worrying trend.

A side-by-side pictogram comparison indicating COVID-19 rates of transmission of SARS-CoV2 (one person may infect 2.5 people) and Delta variant (one person may infect up to 6 people).

If the Delta variant spreads unchecked in the unvaccinated population, it could result in increased hospitalizations that may overwhelm our health care system. And it may lead to even more infectious variants of the virus in the future. No one wants that.

What you can do to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant?

The good news is we have very effective vaccines. To date, the Pfizer and Moderna (messenger RNA or mRNA) vaccines have shown excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalization from the Delta variant.

But, while rates of people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 have ticked up slightly in the last couple of weeks, they’re nowhere near where they were in the spring. Ultimately the biggest risk from the Delta variant is to those who are unvaccinated. They have a much higher chance of being infected and these folks can also spread the virus very easily to vulnerable people, such as those with weakened immune systems or young children who can’t yet get the vaccine.

So, what can you do? If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.

If someone you know isn’t vaccinated, encourage them to get protected. And if you have questions, talk to your doctor. It’s okay to have concerns. But talk to a medical professional you trust to get the facts.
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What’s next in the battle against COVID-19?

To reduce the number of COVID-19 infections, we need to increase the immunity of the population. Once we get more people vaccinated, it will be harder for the virus to spread. Equally important, it will be harder for the virus to mutate into more infectious variants.

In the meantime, we may have to take a step back to move forward.

Certain businesses and cities are again requiring masks indoors. And some employers and government agencies will require vaccines before employees can come back to the workplace. Testing is also important because we now know that even those with no symptoms can spread the virus. CVS Health can help on these fronts.

In the early summer, we were all hopeful that we would return to “normal” life by fall. Now, we can see that there’s more work to do. But we know far more about COVID-19 than we did at the beginning. We have effective vaccines. And we know what public health measures, like masks, work. If we work together, this is a fight we can win.