The highly contagious Delta strain of COVID-19 is surging in the Midwest and other areas with low vaccination rates, the White House said Thursday — as Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed that all three jabs available in the US protect against it.
The variant is soaring in “the Midwest and upper Mountain states,” where it now makes up 80 percent of cases, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing.
“This rapid rise is troubling,” she said, adding that the variant is now the most prevalent COVID-19 strain in the US.
But studies show that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are effective at fighting the strain, said Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser.
Two doses of Pfizer and Moderna are 79 percent effective against infection from the strain, Fauci said, citing studies from England and Scotland. The shots are also 88 percent effective against symptomatic infection and 96 successful at preventing hospitalization, he said.
By contrast, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is likely 60 percent effective against infection and symptomatic disease and is 92 percent successful at preventing hospitalization, according to a University of Oxford study cited by Fauci.
Asked about mask wearing among vaccinated people indoors, Fauci said certain vulnerable people in parts of the country with low vaccination rates “might” want to consider it.
“If you are an elderly person or if you have a person with an underlying disease, you might want to go the extra mile of protection of wearing a mask if you are indoors in an environment of infection in a community [with a] low level of vaccination,” he said. “I underscore [the word] ‘might,’ that is the discretion that people have.”
He added, “That is not a mask recommendation — that’s just for consideration of each individual.”
Hotspots with surging infection numbers and low vaccination rates also include parts of Missouri and Arkansas, officials said Thursday.
The Delta variant, which was first reported in India, now accounts for 51.7 percent of cases reported in the US for the two weeks ending July 3 — an increase from 30.4 percent of cases for the two-week period ending June 19, according to the CDC.
It is the second-most dominant strain in New York City, according to health department data reported last week.