CDC Cracks Down on Masks Again and Warns Delta Is As infectious As Chickenpox

Woman Wearing Mask

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning that the Delta variant is as infectious as chickenpox and can cause a much more severe COVID-19 infection. The variant is spreading across the United States at a rapid pace, particularly in states where vaccination rates are much lower.

The rapid spread of the virus has prompted the CDC to call for the wearing of masks in areas where the infection rate is climbing even among the vaccinated. The highly infectious variant is the primary cause of breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, CNBC reported. What makes the variant more infectious is the higher viral load it seems to generate, which makes it more contagious, Dr. Robby Sikka told CNBC. Alex Huffman, an aerosol scientist and professor at the University of Denver, told PBS that the Delta virus produces a viral load 1,000 times greater than the original strain of COVID-19.

More than 612,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic first hit the shores of this country a year ago. More than 4 million people across the globe have succumbed to the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracking dashboard.

According to the CDC, 57.7% of Americans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. CDC director Rochelle Walensky said vaccination reduces the risk of breakthrough infections sevenfold. The reduction is even greater when it comes to becoming seriously ill. Walensky said vaccinations reduce risk of hospitalization and death by a factor of 20, PBS reported.

While vaccination is a potent defense against COVID-19, a small percentage of those vaccinated individuals who become infected with Delta can become critically ill. Sikka said the vaccines have largely been successful in preventing serious illness among the vaccinated who become infected by Delta. Dr. Drew Weissman, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed with Sikka, but in an interview with PBS, he noted that the lower numbers of vaccinated individuals will continue to put a strain on healthcare systems and, ultimately, increase the risks of infection for vaccinated people.

Still, the vast majority of Delta cases are among the unvaccinated. States across the U.S. South have been slower to vaccinate due to resistance from anti-vaxxers, as well as those who wrongly believe the virus is a hoax. Many hospital systems in those states are now becoming overwhelmed with new cases of infection. News outlets across the country have published or aired stories about the strain on the healthcare system from this resurgence of infections due to the Delta variant.

That rise in Delta infections sparked the change in CDC guidance regarding masks even for the vaccinated. Other changes in CDC guidance include a call for vaccinated individuals to get tested if they begin to show COVID-19 symptoms or following exposure to the virus. In its new recommendation, the CDC said they should get tested three to five days following exposure and take precautions to prevent potential spread among friends and family.

In addition to concerns over the increasing spread of the Delta variant, new research indicates that long-hauler symptoms from the virus increase the risk of cognitive capabilities. The long-hauler symptom, typically known as “brain fog,” impairs the ability to think clearly and quickly. Data presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Denver this week pointed to the virus’ impact on cognitive capabilities. Additionally, data suggests that COVID-19 infection is associated with an uptick in Alzheimer’s disease-associated biomarkers found in the blood. The report shows an increase in total tau, neurofilament light, glial fibrillary acid protein, ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1, and species of amyloid beta and phosphorylated tau.

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