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.
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.
In California, San Diego County and Los Angeles County both reported their highest number of cases since February, and hospitalizations in LA County have more than doubled in two weeks. On Sunday, Los Angeles County officials said hospitalizations surpassed 700 for the first time since March.
In Florida, state health data shows new case positivity nearly doubled in two weeks, from 7.8% the week of July 2 to 15.1%.
A total of 870 hospitalized patients were reported Sunday in Alabama, according to the state’s public health Covid-19 dashboard. Hospitalizations there have been steadily rising since early July: On July 4 there were just 213 hospitalized patients reported.
And Louisiana now has the highest increase in cases per capita in the US, state officials said Friday.