4. The Delta variant is responsible for the majority of breakthrough infections in the U.S.
To date, the Delta variant is the most transmissible strain of SARS-CoV-2 and accounts for about 83% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. According to the CDC, it is more transmissible than influenza and the virus that causes Ebola. Data show that the virus stays in the mucosal lining of the nose for much longer than previous variants. “People who are infected with the Delta variant have higher viral loads that they can spread to others,” says Dr. Chacko.
Because of this high transmissibility, the Delta variant has caused an extremely rapid rise in cases. Areas with lower vaccination rates are disproportionately experiencing the highest case rates, and almost all cases of hospitalization and death are among those who are unvaccinated.
5. Wearing a mask can help protect yourself and others from breakthrough infections.
The CDC recommends wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial transmission, which includes New York City. This is a way to protect against a breakthrough infection and to prevent transmitting the virus to another person.
“At this time, masks provide another layer of protection against COVID,” says Dr. Chacko. “This protection is especially critical for those who may be at higher risk if exposed to COVID and for those who have contact with others who may be at higher risk, such as someone who is immunocompromised or a child who is not yet eligible for vaccination. Some have asked why the CDC updated its recommendation. It is imperative that guidelines reflect the latest data and respond to the evolving situation, which means there will be frequent updates.”
6. Vaccinated individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms should get tested and isolate if positive.
COVID-19 symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. With other cold viruses also circulating, it’s important to get tested to know if any symptoms are from a COVID-19 infection. If your result is positive, the CDC recommends isolating for 10 days.
“If you are fully vaccinated and exposed to someone with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you get tested three to five days after the date of exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result,” says Dr. Chacko. “Of course, you should still follow your local and workplace regulations including contacting your employer for additional guidance if applicable.”
7. Vaccination is still our best defense against COVID-19.
According to the CDC, more than 97% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The bottom line is that vaccines save lives. “Vaccines are your best tool to protect yourself and your loved ones,” says Dr. Chacko. “On a larger scale, vaccines are key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”