Delta variant of COVID-19: the US is likely “much farther in this epidemic than we’re getting,” says Gottlieb

Delta variant of COVID-19: the US is likely “much farther in this epidemic than we’re getting,” says Gottlieb

Gottlieb said the CDC is only tracking breakthrough infections when people are hospitalized, but medical professionals “need to understand whether or not vaccinated people are developing subclinical and mild infections and whether or not they can spread the virus, because that’s going to inform the kinds of decisions that they make.” More “It’s a question I get a lot from vaccinating individuals is whether or not they can spread the infection,” Gottlieb said. “Again, we know that they were far less likely to spread the infection with the other variants. We don’t know a lot about this Delta. This is a question that can be answered, and CDC should be looking at this.” 

Gottlieb said that it appears the U.S. is about three or four weeks behind the United Kingdom, and using that country as a model, the U.S. could be turning a corner soon.  “I believe that there is more virus than we’re picking up right now,” Gottlieb said. “There’s probably a lot of people with mild to subclinical infection since more of the infection is happening in a younger population that’s less likely to become very symptomatic.” 

“If you look at the U.K., they do in the last seven days appear to be turning a corner. You’re starting to see a downward trajectory on the cases. Now, it’s unclear whether that’s going to be sustained,” Gottlieb added.  According to the CDC’s latest model, the agency predicts that over the next three weeks, there may be between 90,000 and 800,000 new cases — a huge range. Showing an even larger disparity, the CDC estimates that for the week ending August 14, there will be from an average of 10,000 infections a day to more than 100,000. Gottlieb believes this range is an indication that the agency doesn’t have a good sense of where the outbreak is headed.    

“So it’s not more airborne,” Gottlieb said. “It’s not more likely to be permeable through a mask. So a mask can still be helpful. I think, though, if you’re going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the masks does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection.”  Despite that the Delta variant is more transmissible than previous variants, Gottlieb said the “characteristics of the virus haven’t changed as far as we know.”

The News Highlights

  • Delta variant of COVID-19: the US is likely “much farther in this epidemic than we’re getting,” says Gottlieb
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