According to internal documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new evidence shows the Delta variant of COVID-19 is as contagious as chickenpox. That means the variant is more infectious than the common cold, flu, smallpox and Ebola virus. The report was obtained by the Washington Post.
The documents also cite studies from Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing the variant may pose a greater risk for hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death than the alpha variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
The documents appear to be talking points for CDC staff to use when explaining the dangers of the delta variant, as well as, “breakthrough″ infections. A breakthrough infection is when a vaccinated person becomes sick with the illness the vaccine was supposed to prevent.
Since January, people who got infected after vaccination make up an increasing chunk of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths among COVID-19 patients, according to the documents. That trend coincides with the spread of the delta variant.
This week, the CDC said new evidence shows breakthrough infections may spread as easy as infections that happen to unvaccinated people. They cited a large recent outbreak among vaccinated individuals in the Cape Cod town of Provincetown, Massachusetts, among others. This evidence played a role in the CDC’s decision to recommend that vaccinated people in parts of the United States where COVID-19 is surging resume wearing masks when indoors. The recommendation has already led to the reinstatement of mask mandates in cities, states, schools and businesses across the country.
The CDC is considering additional steps including recommending masks for everyone, and requiring vaccines for doctors and other health workers. On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced he is requiring all federal workers be vaccinated or get tested weekly.
The CDC has always expected some breakthrough infections, but has so far struggled with how to explain them to the public. However, the CDC emphasized breakthrough infections are still uncommon.
As the documents note, COVID-19 vaccines are still highly effective at preventing serious illness and death.