The Delta variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Whatcom County and has become the dominant variant in Washington, making up 58% of all variant cases in the state. This variant is also about 50-60% more contagious than the Alpha variant—which is itself 50% more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19. According to a recent study, the Delta variant’s viral load is about 1,000 times higher than the original COVID-19 strain.
We want to remind people that masks are still required for unvaccinated people in public indoor spaces. Your risk of getting infected by the Delta variant is greatest if you’re not vaccinated. Full vaccination provides a high level of protection against Delta, as with all the other variants. Vaccination remains the single best defense we possess against COVID-19 and all its variants.
Although prior COVID-19 infection provides some natural immunity, the CDC estimates that only about 6.8% of Washington’s population has this kind of immunity, which is low compared to most other states (25-35%). The CDC also says getting vaccinated provides a strong boost in immunity on top of immunity gained from prior infection. For these reasons, we continue to advise vaccination as the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and all its variants, including Delta.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your community from the Delta variant:
Get vaccinated. As mentioned above, vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19 and all its variants, Delta included. Your risk of catching or spreading the Delta variant is very low if you’re fully vaccinated. Find a provider near you at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.
If you’ve begun your vaccination series, finish it. You aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the last dose in your vaccination series. That’s two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna shot or 2 weeks after your first and only Johnson & Johnson shot. Partial vaccination has limited effectiveness against the Delta variant.
Wear a mask. If you’re unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, you’re vulnerable to the Delta variant. Wear a mask or face covering that fits snugly over both your nose and mouth whenever you’re around people you don’t live with. Even if you are vaccinated, consider wearing a mask when sharing an indoor space with people who may not be vaccinated. A mask or face covering provides a layer of protection in addition to vaccination.
Talk to someone else about vaccination. If you know someone who isn’t yet vaccinated, let them know about the benefits of vaccination. We know this can be challenging! We’ve provided some tips to help guide you through a civil, productive discussion about the benefits of vaccination.
Vaccination is highly effective, but it takes two weeks after you complete your vaccine series (whether it’s one or two doses) before you’re protected. Masking is an immediate step you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.
If you’re unvaccinated, the state still requires you to wear a mask in public indoor spaces. This includes people who are only partially vaccinated (that is, not two weeks past their final vaccine dose). Vaccination and masks are your best tools against Delta.
If you’re fully vaccinated, wearing a mask will provide you with additional protection as there will always be a small number of breakthrough cases. And it will protect people with weaker immune systems, such as people with cancer or who are on immunosuppressant medication, as well as people who can’t get vaccinated, including the 29,000 children in Whatcom County who are under 12. You can make the choice to wear a mask and protect yourself, your loved ones, and vulnerable people in our community.