As the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads rapidly nationwide, the U.S. has “two weapons” to mitigate the outbreak, according to One Medical Regional Medical Director Dr. Natasha Bhuyan.
“We have two key weapons in fighting this virus: one is masks, the other is vaccines,” Dr. Natasha Bhuyan told Yahoo Finance Live. “If we can get our vaccination rates up, we will be able to slow down the spread of the virus. But until then, it's important that even people who are fully vaccinated continue to wear a mask in indoor public settings.”
The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, has now spread to more than 132 countries and is as contagious as chickenpox, according to an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document. The contagious strain now accounts for more than 80% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. as the seven-day average of new confirmed cases has soared 150% in the past two weeks.
Outbreaks of infections largely driven by the Delta variant have prompted state and local governments to reimpose coronavirus-related restrictions. Seven San Francisco Bay Area counties, as well as Los Angeles and Sacramento counties, have taken steps to mandate people wear masks indoors. Meanwhile, New York City officials issued a "strong recommendation" for people to wear masks on Monday, but stopped short of making it mandatory.
Louisiana is the first state to reimpose a statewide indoor mask mandate as the number of cases in the state surge. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the order on Monday, requiring face coverings for everyone age 5 or older until Sept. 1 to “help slow the spread of COVID-19 and limit suffering and death in Louisiana until we are through this fourth surge.”
Vaccinations, the other key weapon to fight the Delta variant, according to Bhuyan, hit a milestone in the U.S. on Monday. Seventy percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 60.6% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
“We are mostly seeing cases in people that are unvaccinated. 99.9% of people who are fully vaccinated have not had a breakthrough case that has resulted in a severe hospitalization or death,” Bhuyan added. “What that tells us is that what public health experts have been saying is accurate. The vaccines are safe, they are effective, and they are our best weapon to get us through this pandemic.”