With emerging news about the Delta variant, it’s important that your caregivers are prepared. Here’s what they need to know.
For a few months, it seemed as if we had turned the corner on the coronavirus pandemic and were on our way to it being a thing of the past. However, now, the news is full of talk about the Delta variant.
What do your employees need to know about this strain of the virus? Here are some key points:
#1: The “Delta” variant is a mutation of the original COVID-19 virus (also known as “Alpha”).
The Delta mutation was first identified in December 2020 and has now been found in every state in the country.
Let’s back up and review a bit about viruses. A virus has one goal: to survive by reproducing as much and as fast as it can. But a virus cannot live without a “host,” such as a human cell. If a virus enters our bodies and decides our cells make comfy “homes,” it will settle down, begin having “kids,” and then sending off their children to infect other people.
When COVID-19 first emerged in early 2020, elderly people provided an especially nice “home” in which the virus could live and reproduce. Currently, because a large percentage of older adults are vaccinated, they no longer offer the virus a comfy habitat.
So, what can a virus do in order to survive? It must make a series of small changes, known as mutations. Once a virus has made enough mutations, it is considered a new variant of the original germ. To try to fight back against the vaccine, the COVID-19 virus has mutated into several different variants. This is how the Delta variant was “born.”
#2: The Delta version reproduces nearly 1000 times faster than the “alpha” COVID virus.
Because the Delta variant doesn’t like to live in vaccinated bodies, it is on the hunt for new “victims.” The people most at risk for the Delta variant are those who remain unvaccinated. This includes all children under 12, adults who are medically advised against receiving the vaccine, and adolescents and adults who have chosen not to be vaccinated. Another way to look at the Delta variant is that it is just as contagious as chicken pox…another virus for which we have a vaccine.
#3: Delta is now considered a “variant of concern” by the CDC.
A “variant of concern” is one that spreads more easily and causes more severe disease than the original virus. As the current dominant COVID strain in the United States, Delta is highly contagious, spreading twice as fast as the original COVID and accounting for up to 80% of new COVID cases. Most of these cases are among unvaccinated people. And 97% of the people who are hospitalized with severe symptoms of the Delta variant are unvaccinated.
#4: The Delta variant has been diagnosed in residents of all 50 US states and is causing some state and local governments to consider extending or enforcing mask mandates.
Some businesses have also instituted policies to help fight the Delta variant, including requiring face masks and/or proof of vaccination.
#5: The best way to protect yourself against the Delta variant (and any future variants that may take hold in the US) is to get fully vaccinated.
Health experts around the world agree that if people want to get back to normal, a significant portion (70-85%) of our global population needs to be vaccinated. As long as large numbers of people around the globe are unvaccinated, new strains of the virus will continue to develop and cause problems.
#6: In addition to complying with your workplace policies, it is crucial to follow CDC and local guidelines for other prevention measures, like face coverings.
Please remember that the “rules” for wearing masks are going to vary, depending on where you live.
For example, as of July 27, 2021, scientists recommend that people who live in a Delta “hot spot” need to mask up when in a public, indoor area…even if they have been vaccinated. However, if you live in a county that has a high vaccination rate and a low Delta rate, wearing a mask may not be necessary. Here’s a link to a map of the US that displays the areas where people are most vulnerable to the Delta variant.
#7: In the weeks ahead, as researchers continue to study the Delta variant, new information will become available and new prevention measures may be in order.
Scientists already know that to outsmart and control the COVID-19 virus and its mutations, people all over the world need to get vaccinated. This will reduce the number of available hosts, depriving the COVID virus of that cushy human environment for making “babies.” Until every country in the world achieves a high vaccination rate, there will continue to be new COVID mutations and variants doing their best to outsmart us!
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Caregivers and COVID-19
As you discuss the current wave of COVID with your employees, remind them that the United States has often been at the forefront of fighting viruses.
In the 1950s, we beat back polio with a vaccine. In the 1960s, Americans developed vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella. Since the 1980s, most US health care workers (and children) have been vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus. And, of course, the flu vaccine saves thousands of lives every year.
Today, by working together to fight COVID-19 and its variants, Americans can again lead the world in the effort to defeat this emerging virus.