The Delta variant is like last year's 'COVID-19 on steroids,' former White House response team advisor says

·2 min read
A mobile COVID-19 vaccination center in Bolton, England on June 9, 2021.
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  • The Delta variant is "COVID-19 on steroids," a leading health expert said.

  • Studies back him up, suggesting that Delta is far easier to catch and spread than earlier versions of the virus.

  • Fortunately, vaccines are still quite excellent at preventing severe disease and death with Delta.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus is like "COVID-19 on steroids," a leading US health expert said.

"We should think about the Delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids," Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to President Joe Biden's coronavirus response team, told CNN on Wednesday.

The Delta variant, which was first identified in India and is now dominant in the US, is far easier to catch and transmit than previously identified versions of the coronavirus.

Slavitt estimated it's about "twice as infectious" as its predecessors.

Delta is considered roughly 40 to 60% more transmissible than Alpha, the variant first identified in the UK in late 2020. Alpha, in turn, is estimated to be roughly 50% more spreadable than the original, wild type virus first identified in Wuhan in 2019.

"Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the Delta variant in its tracks: It's called vaccine," said Slavitt.

Though recent studies suggest vaccines are ever so slightly less effective at preventing symptomatic Delta infections in vaccinated people, all the authorized shots in the US are still very good at putting a stop to severe cases of COVID-19 and deaths with Delta.

In addition, other viral mitigation strategies that have become staples of the pandemic still work on Delta too.

"Even modest mask use combined with vaccination can really put the brakes on even the Delta variant," Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, recently told Insider.

The Delta variant now makes up more than half of the COVID-19 cases in the US, according to new statistics published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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