“What I would say bluntly is: If you are not vaccinated right now in the United States, you should not go into a bar, you should probably not eat at a restaurant. You are at great risk of becoming infected,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.
In 48 states, the rate of new Covid-19 cases in the past week jumped by at least 10% compared to the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In 34 of those states, the rate of new cases increased by more than 50%.
If a large swath of people remains resistant to vaccination, Reiner said, the US is left with two options to control the spread: shut down businesses — which few people want to do — or return to masks.
“The only way to get the unvaccinated to mask up is to mask everyone up,” Reiner said.
While masking, like vaccination, could come from the mandate of state leaders, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Professor of Infectious Diseases Dr. William Schaffner said he anticipates more success if the push to return to precautions comes from local officials and trusted community leaders.
And for those who say vaccination is a personal choice, Schaffner said, they are half-right.
“This is a little like driving on the red light. Yes, that’s your decision, puts you in danger, but endangers others also,” Schaffner said.
Delta variant increases calls for precautions
Part of the urgency to control spread and implement precautions is due to the prevalence of the Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC said that a close contact was somebody that you’re indoors with unmasked for 15 minutes or more,” Dr. Celine Gounder, who served on President Joe Biden’s transition Covid-19 advisory board, said in an interview with STAT published Friday. “The equivalent of that with the Delta variant is not 15 minutes, it’s one second.”
That means people might need to do more than one thing to protect themselves from the more transmissible variant, said Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine.
In addition to vaccination, “Some of the other layers that we should consider would be masking indoors when you’re outside of your household bubble, optimizing ventilation in the home — just opening your window works really well,” she said.
People should think in terms of how much virus there is in the air, plus how long they might be in contact with that virus-laden air.
“So if you’re indoors, there’s not a lot of air dilution unless you’re opening up windows and doing that sort of thing. When you’re outdoors, it’s almost infinitely diluted. And so outdoors, your risk is really low,” Gounder said.
As the Delta variant spreads, rates of infections and hospitalizations are on the rise.