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One of the leading vaccine experts in the nation has a dire warning for Americans: The powerful, fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus will “find everybody who is not immune.”
There is “no question that we are going to see a surge,” Dr. Gregory Poland of the prestigious Mayo Clinic told WCCO-TV in Minnesota.
Poland, who wears a mask indoors and outside in crowded conditions, warned the unvaccinated: “Do not be deceived that ‘I got this far and I’m OK.’ This is a very different variant. It will find you. This virus will find everybody who is not immune.”
He added: “This is a serious, current and present danger to you and your families’ health if you are not vaccinated.”
Though the major risk is to the unvaccinated, continuing numbers of those who don’t get the protection present a risk to everyone, he warned.
“The longer we go with large numbers of people unvaccinated, the greater and greater the risk that a new variant will develop that will evade vaccine-induced immunity. So we are our own worst enemies here,” Poland told KARE-11 TV. in Minneapolis.
Poland is especially worried about children too young to get the vaccine — as well as for teens whose parents are on the fence about vaccinations, especially because “we are seeing rises in severe disease and hospitalization among young people,” he said.
He strongly agrees with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics this week that children should wear a mask when they return to school, whether they’re vaccinated or not.
“A mask is not a political symbol. It is a medical symbol of taking care of yourself and others,” he said.
The significantly more transmissible delta variant now makes up about 83% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with the majority of deaths occurring in unvaccinated people. The variant is driving cases up in every state in the nation.
Over the week ending Tuesday, the U.S. has averaged 239 deaths per day from the virus — which is nearly a 48% increase from the prior week.
Check out a clip of Poland’s interview with WCCO-TV below. An extended interview with KARE-11 TV is up top.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.