Why everyone needs to take the COVID-19 Delta variant seriously, even if they’re already vaccinated.
With more than three-quarters of New Jersey’s eligible population vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least a first dose, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are thankfully below those at the height of the pandemic. However, the Delta variant is beginning to reverse the progress we’ve made. Here are the facts you should know to keep you and your family safe.
What is the Delta variant?
As with any virus, the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve and mutate. This particular strain first surfaced in India in 2020 and was detected in the U.S. just one month later. As of July 20, the Delta variant made up more than 83 percent of cases in the nation. That’s up from 50% the week of July 3.
Why is the Delta variant so concerning?
The Delta variant is highly contagious — even more than the original coronavirus — making it more likely for unvaccinated people to become ill, often leading to more severe outcomes and more hospitalizations. For this reason, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said, “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
As of July 26, New Jersey had the highest number of people hospitalized with the virus since June 9. In the past week alone, the number jumped 30 percent from just two weeks prior, according to Governor Murphy’s office.
Do COVID-19 vaccines protect against the Delta variant?
All of the currently available vaccines have proven effective in significantly limiting severe sickness and hospitalization in those fully vaccinated. That said, breakthrough cases—in which a person gets COVID-19 even though they are fully vaccinated—are rising with the new variant. Still, of all the COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey between January 19 and July 12, 2021, more than 99 percent were unvaccinated, according to the Governor’s office.
“We’re heartened to see the vaccines defend against the Delta variant, but we can’t let our guard down completely,” says Dr. Don Liss, Chief Medical Officer at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “While vaccination continues to be the surest protection against COVID-19, we don’t want to backtrack on the significant progress we’ve made in fighting this virus.”
What precautions should I take?
The most important way to protect yourself is to be fully vaccinated. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, that means getting both doses.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is once again recommending the use of indoor masks in parts of the country where COVID-19 spread is high or substantial. According to the CDC Covid Data Tracker, New Jersey has several counties that qualify. The indoor mask recommendations apply to everyone, vaccinated or not.
The good news in the face of growing concerns over Delta and other variants: Getting fully vaccinated is easier than ever before. Appointments are easy to make and you do not have to pay anything out-of-pocket — no coinsurance, deductibles or copayments. Make your vaccination appointment today.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ), the state’s oldest and largest health insurer is a tax-paying, not-for-profit health service corporation, providing a wide array of medical, dental, vision and prescription insurance products and services. Horizon BCBSNJ is leading the transformation of health care in New Jersey by working with doctors and hospitals to deliver innovative, patient-centered programs that reward the quality, not quantity, of care patients receive. Learn more at HorizonBlue.com.