From many indicators, The U.S. has done relatively well in fighting the pandemic coronavirusThe number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide are at their lowest levels since the beginning of last year.Several states have achieved the goal of having 70% adults Vaccinated At least one dose, many regions are relaxing or removing health restrictions in response to suppressed levels of transmission.

But these hard-won results were accompanied by a grim milestone on Tuesday: the national death toll reached 600,000. This is approximately the population of Milwaukee or Baltimore. Experts worry that the pandemic situation in the United States may deteriorate again.

The threatening coronavirus variant B 1.617.2, which first appeared in India — now called Delta by the World Health Organization — is spreading rapidly around the world, including in the United States.It is estimated to be more contagious than worrying B.1.1.7 variants First seen in Britain. This variant, now called Alpha, is estimated to be about 50% more infectious than the original coronavirus that broke out from Wuhan, China in early 2020. Delta is estimated to be 50% to 60% more infectious than Alpha.

In the United Kingdom, Delta variant infections began to appear at very low levels in early April, and then rose rapidly. By early June, Delta variants accounted for more than 60% of cases.

Earlier this year, the spread of Alpha virus surpassed other versions of the virus and became the main strain in the United States. Now, experts expect Delta Air Lines to take its place, just as it did in the UK. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally called Delta Air Lines “Variations of interest.”

“Now, in America, [Delta accounts for] About 10% of infections. It doubles every two weeks,” said Scott Gottlieb, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. on Sunday Face the country“So it may become the main strain in the U.S. This does not mean that we will see a sharp rise in infection rates, but it does mean that this will take over. And I think the real risk lies in the fall-this may be in the fall A new epidemic has broken out.”

Even more worrying is that new data suggests that Delta may also cause more serious diseases—in addition to spreading to more people. Early findings in Scotland showed that the risk of an infected person with the Delta variant eventually being hospitalized almost doubled compared with the Alpha variant.Data is Published on Monday as a letter LancetExperts say they need more data to confirm this risk.

The good news for all of this is that full vaccination seems to prevent Delta. At the end of May, data released by researchers from the Department of Public Health (not peer-reviewed) showed that two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 88% effective in preventing symptomatic infections of Delta variantsAt the same time, data shows that the effective rate of two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 60%. (It is worth noting that there is only one shot of these two vaccines Is not It is protective and only provides 33% efficacy against symptomatic Delta infections. Experts emphasized the importance of not skipping the second dose. )

Data from Scotland It was also shown on Monday that two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have an effective rate of 79% against the Delta variant, while two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have an effective rate of 60%.

Also on Monday, PHE released another analysis (also without peer review) and found that the two doses of Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine were 96% effective against hospitalization, And the effective rate of two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for hospitalization is 92%.

“So we have the tools to control and defeat it,” Gottlieb pointed out.

But experts are still worried.The rhythm of vaccination Growth in the United States has slowed significantly, and many states—especially the South—are far behind the goal of getting 70% of adults to get at least one vaccine. The low vaccination rate is exacerbating the concerns of experts including Gottlieb that as Delta Air Lines continues to spread, cases may surge again.

Peter Hotez, director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, also expressed this concern on Tuesday. He told CNN that he was “very worried“About the Delta variant. He emphasized that before Delta Air Lines spreads further, now is the “critical moment” for full vaccination-it will take five to six weeks.

At a press conference last week, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci made a similar request, pointing out the rapid spread of Delta variants in the UK. “We can’t let this happen in the U.S.,” he said. This is “such a strong argument…to get vaccinated.” “

This story originally appeared in Ars Technica.

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