CDC now calls coronavirus Delta variant a 'variant of concern'

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now calls the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B.1.617.2, a "variant of concern."...

Posted: Jun 15, 2021 4:33 PM
Updated: Jun 15, 2021 7:00 PM

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now calls the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B.1.617.2, a 'variant of concern.'

The variant of concern designation is given to strains of the virus that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease. Vaccines, treatments and tests that detect the virus may also be less effective against a variant of concern. Previously, the CDC had considered the Delta variant to be a variant of interest.

The CDC said the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, shows increased transmissibility, potential reduction in neutralization by some monoclonal antibody treatments under emergency authorization and potential reduction in neutralization from sera after vaccination in lab tests.

The World Health Organization classified the Delta variant as a variant of concern on May 10.

Covid-19 cases have been declining over the past few months in the United States, but there's concern that could change as the pace of vaccinations slows and the Delta variant spreads. The CDC estimates it accounted for 9.9% of cases in the US as of June 5.

At a White House Covid-19 briefing last week, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci encouraged everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19, noting that the Delta variant is was in circulation in the United States at a rate similar to the tipping point seen in the UK, where the variant is now dominant.

'We cannot let that happen in the United States,' Fauci said, calling the UK's experience 'such powerful argument' to get vaccinated.

The variant is believed to be responsible for the most recent rise in cases in the UK and a study of cases in Scotland published on Monday found that it was associated with about double the risk of hospitalization compared with the Alpha variant, B.1.1.7, that was first identified in the UK.

The UK announced Monday that the easing of coronavirus restrictions would be delayed another four weeks, until July 19, following a rise in cases and, in particular, the growing spread of the Delta variant.

Delta variant in the United States

As of Sunday, the Delta variant was responsible for about 10.3% of US Covid-19 cases, according to Dr. Eric Topol, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, whose outbreak.info has been tracking variants throughout the pandemic.

The may not seem like a lot, but the speed with which it's spreading is a concern.

'It doubles every seven to 10 days, which means when it gets to three weeks from now, this variant will be dominant,' Topol said. 'That means we have two to three weeks to just go flat out with vaccination to stop this trend.'

Vaccinations generally seem to keep variants in check. The Alpha strain, for instance, is the dominant strain in the United States and has been since about late April. But with exceptions such as Michigan, it didn't cause surges in cases in most parts of the country.

Topol said that the US was able to 'ante up' and go 'full tilt on vaccination' when the variant arrived in the United States.

With the Delta variant, Topol isn't as optimistic.

'This is the most troubling variant by far, because it's another 60% more contagious than the Alpha, so it's a super spreader strain,' Topol said. But the vaccination rate is stalling.

While 43.9% in the US is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, the rate at which people are getting vaccinated has been slowing down.

In Mississippi, nearly 29% of population is fully vaccinated. In Alabama it's less than 31%. In Arkansas, less than 33%. In Louisiana, Georgia, and Wyoming it's less than 34%, according to CDC data.

Vaccines and the Delta variant

The good news is that people who are fully vaccinated seem to have solid protection against the Delta variant.

A study published in the Lancet found a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine wasn't enough, but after the second dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech provided 79% protection from the Delta variant. That compares with 92% protection against the Alpha variant.

Another analysis from England's public health agency found two doses of the Pfizer vaccine seemed 96% effective against hospitalization.

Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said on CNN's New Day Tuesday that he is 'extremely worried' about the Delta variant, although two doses of Pfizer or Moderna's Covid-19 vaccines look like they function 'really well' to protect against it.

Now is 'crunch time,' Hotez said, looking back to the surge of coronavirus cases across the South last year, when a 'horrible' wave of cases emerged in July and August.

'I have to believe this, with this new Delta variant, the same thing is going to happen again with anyone who's either unvaccinated or only a single dose of vaccine,' he said. 'And so this is the time for everyone to get vaccinated, because even if you want to get yourself vaccinated tomorrow or your adolescent child tomorrow, it's still going to take five to six weeks to get both of those doses of vaccine and then another week after that.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 784484

Reported Deaths: 13921
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1111691760
Mobile707171225
Madison49549625
Baldwin36108489
Shelby36062314
Tuscaloosa33661547
Montgomery33066676
Lee22407219
Calhoun21041405
Morgan19734334
Etowah19001459
Marshall17619274
Houston16697382
St. Clair15361303
Cullman14506257
Limestone14505187
Elmore14387260
Lauderdale13436280
Talladega12855234
DeKalb12140236
Walker10524329
Blount9649156
Autauga9642137
Jackson9325156
Coffee8793175
Dale8529172
Colbert8482182
Tallapoosa6616177
Escambia6553120
Covington6420165
Chilton6342143
Russell602455
Franklin5758101
Chambers5370133
Marion4769117
Dallas4676187
Pike460096
Clarke459878
Geneva4371116
Winston422994
Lawrence4107108
Bibb407380
Barbour343270
Marengo325683
Monroe317152
Butler316490
Randolph304456
Pickens301873
Henry300357
Hale291584
Cherokee288353
Fayette277973
Washington245148
Crenshaw237069
Cleburne231150
Clay226765
Macon218658
Lamar193342
Conecuh181346
Lowndes170758
Coosa168033
Wilcox159736
Bullock148842
Perry136336
Sumter124336
Greene120642
Choctaw73326
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While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
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