COVID-19 Update: Delta Variant
The delta variant was first identified in India, and it has since replaced the Alpha variant (formerly known as the UK variant) as the dominant strain worldwide. At the time of this writing, July 23, 2021, the delta variant accounts for 83% of new cases of COVID-19 in the US. Delta is classified as having increased transmissibility when compared to other variants, as well as having a modest resistance to the currently approved vaccines. However, data shows that all three available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are still effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations, even with the delta variant.
In Massachusetts, there was a recent outbreak in Provincetown. This is now linked to over 500 cases, with 342 of those cases residing within the Commonwealth. It is suspected that unvaccinated individuals likely caused the delta variant to spread among the people visiting Provincetown. Of the cases associated with this event, 69% of affected individuals report being fully vaccinated, and 71% of the cases are symptomatic. The symptoms have been relatively mild. Recent sequencing results show that many of the Provincetown cases are the delta variant.
This event is a good indication that the delta variant is circulating throughout Massachusetts, as it has been through the rest of the US. The positive takeaway is that the vaccines are working as advertised; they have prevented severe illness and kept people out of the hospital. However, Provincetown has a high rate of vaccination. Unvaccinated people make up a very small percentage of the population of the town, but still accounted for over 30% of the cases in the outbreak. This illustrates the fact that the delta variant is highly infectious compared to the other variants, and is especially contagious among the unvaccinated.
In Ware, our case numbers are encouraging. In the last 5 weeks, we have only had 2 new cases of COVID-19. However, our vaccination numbers are low. The entire state of Massachusetts has a fully vaccinated rate of 61%, whereas Ware is at 50%. By contrast, the town of Provincetown has a rate of vaccination that is greater than 95% for their entire population, yet the delta variant was able to take hold and spread very quickly. If the delta variant makes its way to Ware, we could see a significant increase in cases due to our high number of unvaccinated residents. It is very important that anyone who is able to get the vaccine does so as soon as possible. The shots are available at CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, and are free to any MA resident. If you haven’t already done so, please do your part to help prevent an outbreak in our town.