As the US passes 600,000 confirmed Covid deaths, there are also warnings about the rise of a new Covid strain, the Delta variant, taking over in the US.
Officially called the B.1.617.2 variant, it was first detected in India in February and has now spread across the globe. Some fear it could overwhelm health care systems and reverse reopening plans before vaccinations take hold.
Here are the answers to other commonly asked questions:
- How does the Delta variant compare with other variants? It is more contagious, perhaps 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was responsible for a surge in Michigan this spring.
- How worried is the US government? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled the Delta variant a "variant of concern," which means scientists think it is more transmissible or may cause a more serious version of the disease. The WHO made a similar determination in May, as the Delta variant was tearing through India.
- How prevalent is the Delta variant in the US? It accounted for 9.9% of US cases as of June 5, according to the CDC. By Sunday it accounted for 10.3% of cases, according to the website outbreak.info, which tracks variants. The Delta variant could be the dominant strain in the US within a month.
- Do vaccines work against the Delta variant? Yes, but there is a catch. People who are fully vaccinated seem to have good protection against it. But people who have gotten only one shot of a two-dose vaccine do not. Right now, nearly 45% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
- There's wild variation within states. What used to be a divide has turned into a chasm between states with high rates of vaccination and those with low rates of vaccination. For example, Bay Area counties in California are near or exceed 60% vaccination. Many Central Valley counties are well below 40%. In Florida, Miami-Dade County is at 50% fully vaccinated, while many Panhandle counties in the northern part of the state are at less than 30%. Health officials say they are worried about outbreaks of the Delta variant in communities with low vaccination rates.