August 02, 2021: -On Thursday, the CDC warned House lawmakers that the new delta variant sweeping across the country is as contagious as chickenpox, has a longer transmission window than the original strain of Covid-19, and may make older people sicker, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated, according to a copy of the document reviewed by CNBC and authenticated by the U.S. agency.
Delta, now in at least 132 countries and already the dominant form of the disease in the United States, is more transmissible than the common cold, the 1918 Spanish flu, smallpox, Ebola, and MERS and SARS, two infections also caused by coronaviruses, according to the document. Only measles appears to spread faster than the variant. “The war has changed,” CDC officials wrote.
Health officials said federal, and lawmakers should communicate to the public the benefits of getting vaccinated, adding the Covid vaccine shots reduce the risk of severe disease and death “10-fold or greater” and reduce the risk of infection “3-fold.”
Vaccines prevent more than 90% of severe diseases but may be less effective at preventing infection, they said, making community spread among the vaccinated more likely. At the current rate, there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans, according to the document.
Separately, the CDC has said that 5,914 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized or died with Covid infections as of July 19, the most recent data available. Breakthrough cases, which occur in the fully vaccinated, happen more frequently in congregate settings and groups at risk of primary vaccine failure, according to the document.
Health officials also said federal and state leaders should consider vaccine mandates, particularly for healthcare workers, universal masking, and other community mitigation strategies. President Joe Biden announced that his administration would require federal workers to prove their vaccination status or submit to a series of rigorous safety protocols on Thursday.
The documents, presented to lawmakers, came two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course on its prior guidance and recommended fully vaccinated Americans who live in areas with high Covid infection rates resume wearing face masks indoors. The guidelines cover about two-thirds of the U.S. population, according to a CNBC analysis.
On Tuesday, while the delta variant continues to hit unvaccinated people the hardest, some vaccinated people could carry higher levels of the virus than understood previously and potentially transmit it to others, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. She added the variant behaves “uniquely differently from past strains of the virus.”
“This pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” Walensky told reporters on a call.