Here’s what else you need to know about the variant, including why it’s spreading so quickly.
It rapidly became the dominant variant, overwhelming the country’s health care system.
“This is the most contagious version of the virus we have seen throughout the whole pandemic,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “It’s really very contagious.”
Now, it’s spread to all 50 US states
The first case in the United States was identified in March, and by early July, it made up more than half of cases tested in the country. It now makes up 83% of US cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“This is a dramatic increase, up from 50% for the week of July 3,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
The Delta variant has been found in all 50 US states.
That’s behind a surge, mainly among unvaccinated people in the country — the average of new daily cases this week is up 55% from last week, with cases rising in 46 states as of Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations are up 52% over the past 14 days.
The strain continues to spread rapidly
When scientists in China compared dozens of cases of delta to strains from early in the pandemic, they found that patients with the Delta variant had viral loads that were 1,260 times higher.
“There’s so much more virus around, people who are infected have such high viral loads, but even short periods of time — five minutes, seven minutes, you don’t even have to be within six feet,” Jha said.
“For people who are unvaccinated, they are getting infected with much, much shorter exposure.”
The vaccines available in the United States are proving to be effective against the Delta variant. Although there are breakthrough cases, people who are fully vaccinated rarely become very sick.
“If you are unvaccinated, you are at great risk right now,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. “And you should take measures if you’re unvaccinated, like masking, distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings.”
More than 97% of people getting hospitalized with Covid-19 now are unvaccinated, Walensky said last week.
And 99.5% of deaths are among the unvaccinated, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.
Getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible, Murthy said, “is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic.”