By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP, Health Officer County of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health
The Delta Variant, the latest virus strain of COVID-19 is of great concern as cases are increasing locally in Santa Barbara County, throughout California and across the U.S. As of the end of July, Santa Barbara County is in the midst of another surge of COVID-19 with daily new cases increasing to over 15 per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 7.2%. The vast majority of these cases are attributed to the Delta variant and, 18–29-year-olds make up the majority of these cases. Also, more COVID-19 cases are now being detected in the southern part of the county which is in contrast from earlier in the pandemic when the majority of new infections occurred in north county.
Here's what we are learning about the Delta variant and what you need to know to stay safe:
Delta variant is highly contagious especially for the unvaccinated!
The Delta variant accounted for more than 85% of new cases in California and nationally. The new strain of the virus is much more contagious and more easily transmitted. Unvaccinated persons are at greatest risk of infection and illness.
Delta variant symptoms
The symptoms of the Delta variant appear to be the same as the original version of COVID-19. However, physicians are seeing people getting sicker quicker, especially younger people. Recent research found that the Delta variant multiplies more rapidly and leads to much higher viral loads in infected persons compared to the old virus.
Vaccinated people are impacted by the Delta variant
While fully vaccinated persons are well protected from serious illness, they are at risk of getting infected and spreading the virus albeit at a much lower rate compared to unvaccinated people. Currently about 1 in 7 new cases of COVID occurs in a vaccinated person. Usually vaccinated persons will have only mild flu like symptoms. If you experience even mild cold like symptoms, you should get tested as soon as possible an isolate until the results are clear.
Delta variant is affecting unvaccinated people more
Most patients hospitalized locally are people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Nationally, 97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, as of July 22. In California and across the U.S., data shows that areas with lower vaccination rates tend to have higher COVID-19 hospitalization rates.
If vaccinated people can get Delta, is the vaccine worth it?
Absolutely! The vaccine prevents infection with Delta by 82%. The vaccine prevents serious illness and hospitalization by about 90% and death from COVID by nearly 100%. It is not too late to get vaccinated which is by far the best protection from COVID.
Learn how to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine https://publichealthsbc.org/.
Should I wear a mask even if I am fully vaccinated?
Yes, effective Friday, August 6, 2021, in Santa Barbara County, everyone 2 years of age and older is required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings and shared work places regardless of their vaccination status. The masking mandate is a temporary public health intervention necessary as long as we are seeing such a rapid increase in new cases.
Be safe Santa Barbara County! Mask in public places and encourage your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to get vaccinated.