Expert says new coronavirus variant 'frightening in some ways'

Britain will continue its partial lockdown for another month, hoping to buy time to vaccinate about 10 million residents by July 19, 2021. 

The announcement comes as the country is seeing a surge in infections and hospitalizations linked to a new, 60% more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, known as the Delta variant.

It is a situation microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke, Ph.D., who writes an online newsletter tracking the pandemic in Georgia, is watching closely.

"The Delta variant is frightening in some ways because it is much more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19 that was circulating in our country a year ago," Schmidtke says.  "Whereas that would transmit to 2 people from every infected individual, this transmits 4 times that much. So, it's pretty significant."

Schmidtke is concerned the Delta variant could spread quickly in areas with low vaccination rates, like rural Georgia.

"What we've seen in the United Kingdom is that, when the Delta variant arrived and started to go through its exponential growth phase, increasing very, very fast, we saw surges in cases and hospitalizations in areas with low vaccine coverage, and that is exactly what we have in parts of Georgia," she says.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective at preventing infection from the Delta variant,

but people who are partially vaccinated may still be vulnerable to being infected by the variant.

It is too early to say what will happen with the Delta variant here in the US.

But, Schmidtke warns, its ability to spread quickly could fuel spikes, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.

"What will happen is that it will look like everything is fine until it is not fine," she says.  "And, it will go from fine to not fine very, very fast."

The Delta variant, which first surfaced months ago in India, has been detected in 74  The CDC and the World Health Organization have labeled it as a "variant of concern."   

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