Fears of another COVID-19 surge are growing across the United States as the highly infectious Delta variant begins to rapidly circulate among unvaccinated residents.
Here are answers to common questions about the Delta variant in Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Do vaccines protect against the Delta variant?
If you’ve received the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there is no need to worry, as studies have shown the vaccines protect against the Delta variant, said Diana Cervantes, director of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s epidemiology program.
Do fully vaccinated people need to wear a mask?
The World Health Organization recently recommended that fully vaccinated people wear face masks and practice social distancing due to the Delta variant’s spread.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t recommending that vaccinated U.S. residents return to wearing masks at this time.
Unvaccinated people should keep following COVID-19 safety protocols such as wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds, Cervantes said.
What makes the Delta variant dangerous?
The Delta variant is set to become the dominant strain of COVID-19, said Jeffrey SoRelle, assistant instructor in the Department of Pathology at UT Southwestern. It is 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which is 50% more transmissible than the original strain.
The worry about the variant is that it is more contagious and easier to spread to those who aren’t vaccinated.
While scientists and researchers have found it is highly contagious, there is little to no data showing if the variant is deadlier, SoRelle said..
How many Delta cases have been reported in Texas?
First discovered in India, the variant is said to account for more than 51% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of Delta cases in Texas is “sorely underestimated,” Dr. Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health, told The Texas Tribune. That’s because of a lack of testing for variants, she said.
Regular COVID-19 tests show whether someone has a strain of the virus but don’t detect which variant is involved. That requires genomic sequencing, which not all labs are able to do.
The Texas Department of State Health Services told The Texas Tribune it’s aware of 15 labs in the state that have detected the variant, but labs aren’t required to report sequencing results to the state.
As of July 8, a DSHS dashboard that tracks the number of cases across Texas by variants shows that 219 out of 5,478 sequencing tests, about 0.04% of the cases, found the Delta variant. Seven of those cases were linked to Trauma Service Area E, which includes Tarrant and Dallas counties and other counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
More than 125 campers and adults who attended a church camp in Galveston County have tested positive for COVID-19, Texas officials said this week.
The pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in League City said hundreds more people were likely exposed to the virus at the camp or when the campers returned home.
Health officials are testing whether the more contagious Delta variant helped spur the outbreak in the camp, the Houston Chronicle reported.
In Tarrant County, officials said the Delta variant has been detected but they don’t have the testing capability yet to determine what percentage of current cases are the variant.
Should unvaccinated people be worried about the new COVID variant?
Yes. SoRelle warned that the variant could have devastating effects in areas with low vaccination numbers.
“At this point, if you’re not vaccinated, it’s as if we’re back in July of 2020,” Cervantes added.
For unvaccinated people, Tarrant County officials recommend they get the vaccine and if they don’t, they should wear masks when around people they don’t live with.