The Delta variant of COVID-19 has changed the equation of the pandemic. While some best practices for prevention still apply, it might be time to adjust others. These are seven mistakes you might be making during the Delta outbreak, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
The evidence is clear: The best way to avoid becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, or dying from it, is to get vaccinated. Unpublished CDC data indicates that COVID vaccines are at least 94% effective against hospitalization in adults 18 to 74, CNN reported last week. And the National Institutes of Health estimated last month that COVID vaccines prevented nearly 140,000 deaths in the U.S. through last May. Although the Delta variant is much more contagious than earlier versions of the virus, nearly all deaths from COVID are now occurring in unvaccinated people.
Released this week, a study by scientists at Stanford and Yale universities found overwhelming evidence that masks work to prevent COVID transmission. In July 2021, the CDC advised all people, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face masks in public indoor places, in areas with substantial or high transmission of the virus. Unvaccinated people, and anyone who’s at increased risk for severe COVID, should always mask indoors, regardless of community transmission levels.
The CDC officially recommends a face mask that has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. But some experts say that’s not enough if you want optimal protection against the Delta variant. “We’ve not paid any attention really to giving the public the message that you need much more effective masking, such as the N95 masks that we talk about, or the KN95 for kids,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on Aug. 16.
“Masking is very important right now,” he continued. “Remember, while vaccination is still the number one, two, and three weapons we have, if even everyone got vaccinated today, the search would go on as it is right now for the next four to six weeks, because these people would not yet have immunity. So what they can do today, though, is mask.”
The coronavirus spreads most efficiently in crowded indoor settings. If you’re attending events maskless in crowded spaces that are poorly ventilated, you’re putting yourself at increased risk for COVID. The virus spreads less well outdoors, but experts say you may want to wear a face mask in crowded outdoor settings where social distancing isn’t possible.
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Experts are finding the Delta variant of COVID seems to produce slightly different symptoms than earlier iterations of the virus. While the first version of COVID and the alpha variant were marked by cough, shortness of breath, fever and loss of smell or taste, the Delta variant seems to cause symptoms more similar to the common cold, with sneezing, sore throat and headache more frequently reported. Rule of thumb: If you’re experiencing any symptoms out of the ordinary, get a COVID test and call your doctor for advice.
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Most often, people contract the coronavirus by inhaling viral droplets floating in the air. Picking it up from surfaces (a.k.a. fomite transmission) is much less common. But you can still expose yourself to COVID-19, not to mention other nasty bugs, if you touch your eyes, mouth, or nose with dirty hands. It’s a good habit to break, regardless of the COVID transmission level in your area.
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Now’s not the time to let your hand hygiene habits lapse, either. Experts still recommend washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.