TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its guidance for people who are fully vaccinated on Tuesday, recommending that they wear masks indoors in certain cases, as fears grow over the increasing presence of the Delta variant.
According to Kansas health officials, like Dr. Joan Duwve, Public Health Advisor for the state’s health department, it’s a likely response to the growing concern over the highly contagious variant that continues to spread.
“The CDC is responding to what we know about the Delta variant,” Dr. Duwve said. “What the CDC and what we continue to say is that we just need people to get vaccinated to prevent the onward march of this devastating variant that is increasing case rates, increasing hospitalization rates, and we are fearful that we’ll see an increased number of people dying from this variant here in Kansas as well.”
The CDC back-pedaled on its earlier guidance on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Governor Laura Kelly issued the following statement regarding the CDC’s guidance.
“While we are still reviewing the new guidance and what it means for Kansas, this administration has consistently followed the recommendations from the experts at the CDC – and we don’t intend to stop. Right now Kansas is at a crossroads. The new Delta variant has caused COVID-19 to surge in our communities and some of our hospitals are moving towards capacity. The bad news is that parts of our state fall into the “hot spot” category for new cases, the good news is we have a vaccine to protect us from the virus that is safe, effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, and free. I strongly urge every Kansan who isn’t vaccinated to get one right away. That is the best way to stop the spread of COVID in our state. For those who are vaccinated, I ask that you speak with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are unvaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated to protect themselves and our state.”GOVERNOR LAURA KELLY, D-KANSAS
DELTA VARIANT IS DOMINANT IN KANSAS
So far, 1,338 cases have been identified in the state, surpassing the U.K. variant, which sits at 1,138 total cases.
State health officials noted that the viral loads, which measure the amount of a virus in an organism, in patients infected with the Delta variant make it more likely that they’re going to get sicker and more likely that they’re going to spread the illness.
“In their noses, in their throats, it’s up to 1,000 times more viral particles than with other COVID variants, and we know that a lot of virus means that it’s very transmissible or very infectious,” Dr. Duwve said.
According to Duwve, the state is seeing more cases of the Delta variant identified in PCR tests, which use nose-swab samples or saliva, that are sent to their public labs for sequencing. During sequencing, genetic studies are conducted to identify variants that are present.
“What we are now seeing in our sequence samples is that over 95% of them are Delta variant in the state of Kansas.”
While not every single positive PCR test is sequenced, Dr. Duwve said their labs are working with a wide range of samples that give a depiction of what they see on a state level, which she said is “a lot of Delta.”
VACCINES ARE EFFECTIVE, EVEN WITH BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS
While there have been rare breakthrough infections among people who are partially or fully vaccinated, health officials said those who are infected usually recover quickly, while unvaccinated people are the most at risk.
“One of the things we do know is that vaccine is very effective at preventing serious illness and preventing hospitalization,” Dr. Duwve said.
Dr. Duwve told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Tuesday that more than 99% of severe cases that lead to death are among people that are unvaccinated.
Usually, vaccines prompt the immune system to recognize the virus and to mount an effective response. Vaccines have still proven effective against all variants, according to health officials.
Dr. Duwve talked about the impact of the Delta variant on the immune response from vaccines.
“The Delta variant makes so much virus that sometimes it can initially overwhelm that immune response, but very quickly your body will send out antibodies, and continue to fight off that virus, which is why we think people who are vaccinated have very few symptoms or are mildly symptomatic, and don’t progress to serious illness.”
ONE DOSE VS. TWO DOSES- WHICH WORKS BEST?
For coronavirus vaccines that require two doses to be fully effective, like Moderna and Pfizer, Dr. Duwve suggested that people are more protected after being fully vaccinated, as opposed to after just one dose.
“Initially, we saw great protection with even one dose, and the second dose really put a final punch into that immune response. Now with this variant, the Delta variant, one dose seems to be much less effective,” she said.
Duwve said one dose can be between 30%-35% effective in protecting people against variants instead of the added protection of having two vaccines.
This echoes findings from the New England Journal of Medicine report, citing that people fully vaccinated with the recommended two shots are better prepared to take on the Delta variant.
Duwve said vaccination is key in making sure people are protected, as vaccines are ready to go and in abundant supply.
“Get it now, don’t wait until Delta’s in your neighborhood.”