Masking for vaccinated people, get tested, vaccine breakthroughs, COVID info, delta variant, increased transmission, mutation/variant 101, key takeaways
MASKING FOR VACCINATED PEOPLE: The CDC updated their masking guidelines on July 27 and recommend that fully vaccinated people resume masking in public indoor spaces in communities with high COVID-19 transmission. This includes schools – teachers, staff, students and visitors – regardless of vaccination status.
GET TESTED: The majority of people testing positive for COVID are experiencing symptoms they thought were related to allergies or a cold. If you have friends or family members who are experiencing allergy, cold, or COVID-related symptoms, encourage them to get tested. See the attached Testing Site document for local testing information.
VACCINE BREAKTHROUGHS: In small numbers, vaccinated people are beginning to test positive for COVID, however unvaccinated people account for 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths and 97% of hospitalizations. The breakthrough rate depends on the vaccine received. The vaccine effectiveness of Pfizer against the Delta variant is 88%, AstraZeneca is about 67%. (Numbers are not available for Johnson & Johnson or Moderna, although it’s believed that Moderna is similar to Pfizer.)
COVID INFO: To access State of Alaska COVID-related data, information, etc., go to COVID19.Alaska.gov or click here.
DELTA VARIANT: What to know:
- It has a higher viral load and puts more viral particles into the air. This causes it to spread quicker and more easily than other variants and thus infects more people.
- Because of its virality, it’s causing more sickness and more deaths than previous variants and is responsible for surges across the U.S.
- It is twice as transmissible as the other variants that have emerged.
- This mutation grows and copies itself faster than the other variants. This is troublesome because when a virus circulates freely (because so many people are unvaccinated) it can mutate even more.
- U.S.: Cases are up 144%, deaths are up 7%, and hospitalizations are up 68% in the last two weeks. The 7-day average of new cases has been increasing since early July. The U.S. has more new cases than any other country - more than 51,000 cases per day, four times more than a month ago. The U.S. is one of a few countries that has enough vaccines for every resident, but it has the highest rates of vaccine hesitance or refusal of any nation except Russia. The U.S. vaccination rate is just under 50%.
- Alaska: The state as a whole has been in high transmission for the past two weeks. Of 11 regions, eight are in high alert with widespread community transmission. There were 562 new cases in Alaska in three days last week (only 27 of them were nonresidents). 52% of Alaskans are fully vaccinated. Juneau has the highest vaccination rate at 74%.
- Fairbanks: Of 11 regions in Alaska, Fairbanks has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. 46% of FNSB residents have been fully vaccinated.
- It’s normal for a virus to mutate. Viruses mutate constantly. This is especially true of viruses that contain RNA as their genetic material, such as coronaviruses and influenza (flu) viruses.
- Viruses are made up of a bundle of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) that’s covered by a protective coating of proteins. Once a virus gets into your body – usually through your mouth or nose – it latches on to one of your cells. The virus’s DNA or RNA then enters your cell, where it can make copies of itself that go off and infect other cells. If the virus copies itself and hijacks enough of your cells without being wiped out by your immune system, you get sick.
- Occasionally, an error occurs during the virus’s copying process, that’s a mutation.
- Most of the time, mutations are so small that they don’t significantly affect how the virus works, but sometimes a mutation helps the virus copy itself or get into our cells more easily.
- Mutations accumulate over time, that’s how new variants of a virus strain are created.
- The pandemic is not over. Some believe that this fall could be worse than what we’ve seen prior.
- Vaccinations are the most effective tool for ending the pandemic and the best defense against new strains.
- If vaccinated, stay vigilant with COVID protocols; masking, hand hygiene and testing.
- If unvaccinated, consider vaccination. Stay vigilant with COVID protocols; masking, hand hygiene and testing.
- Experts say COVID prevention strategies remain critical to protection from the virus, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels..
COVID continues to evolve. And, as long as it does, so too will the recommendations that are geared toward keeping everyone safe and alive. This is a Foundation Health Partners employee communication, but feel free to share this information with anyone who has an interest in learning more about COVID-19.