The delta COVID-19 variant appears to cause more severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox — which made it time to “acknowledge the war has changed” and alter recommendations on wearing masks, according to a report of internal federal documents.
The alarm about the variant — now the most dominant one in the US — was raised in an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slide presentation obtained by The Washington Post.
The information — expected to be officially released Friday — was behind the CDC’s controversial decision to change its recommendations for vaccinated people, including encouraging them to wear masks indoors in areas with low vaccination rates.
The delta variant, first found in India, was already raising serious concerns amid reports it was far more contagious and dangerous than other strains. But the latest research necessitated drastic action, the CDC documents claim.
“I finished reading it significantly more concerned than when I began,” Robert Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told the DC paper.
One of the CDC’s slides estimates that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans, the report said.
“Although it’s rare, we believe that at an individual level, vaccinated people may spread the virus, which is why we updated our recommendation,” an anonymous federal health official told the paper.
The data will be published in part to justify the change in recommendations, and also to further encourage unvaccinated people to get the shot.
“Waiting even days to publish the data could result in needless suffering and as public health professionals we cannot accept that,” the source told the Washington Post.