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Leaked CDC Document: The Vaccinated Are Spreading Delta

The document says the COVID-19 variant spreads as easily as chicken pox
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2021 2:17 AM CDT
Updated Jul 30, 2021 5:00 AM CDT
CDC Document: Delta Spreads as Easily as Chicken Pox
Signs are posted at a store downtown McAllen, Texas, on Friday, July, 16, 2021.   (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)

(Newser) – A leaked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document obtained by the Washington Post is quite a bombshell. The internal slide presentation focuses on the need for new messaging around COVID-19 now that the delta variant is surging in the US, and suggests that the variant is so contagious it's almost like an entirely new virus itself. Just how contagious? As much as chicken pox, the document states, spreading more easily than Ebola or the common cold. Perhaps most distressingly, it cites new research suggesting vaccinated people appear to spread delta just as easily as the unvaccinated. Details and related news:

  • The research: The recently obtained and still unpublished research alarmed the agency enough that it has already revised its mask guidance. It comes from a number of outbreak studies and outside investigations, and finds that whether a person infected with delta is vaccinated or unvaccinated, their viral loads are similar. The data is expected to be published in full Friday.

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  • Not far enough? The CDC's updated mask recommendations, however, don't go as far as the new data suggests: Its finding is that, "given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission of the delta variant."
  • Singapore: Studies from other countries have found similarly disturbing information. In Singapore, for example, 75% of new infections are among the partially or fully vaccinated.
  • Alarming US outbreak: A key piece of the new data, which sources say led the CDC to update its mask recommendations, stems from an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Shortly after visitors descended on the beach town for July 4, a "handful" of COVID cases started cropping up. As of Thursday, the number of cases linked to the outbreak had hit 882—74% of them vaccinated, most of them showing symptoms, and seven of them hospitalized, reports ABC News in a larger look at the cluster. A source tells the Post genetic analysis revealed that vaccinated people were spreading the virus to other vaccinated people.
  • "The war has changed": That's the CDC's acknowledgment in the presentation; it notes that it will be difficult to get this message across effectively because the public is in danger of losing faith in COVID vaccines after hearing the new data about breakthrough cases.
  • Just how contagious is delta? PolitiFact put together a helpful compilation of information on delta, such as the shocking fact that when you look at viral load, the 15 minutes of close contact with an infected person that was said to put one at risk for the alpha variant of COVID is now the equivalent of just one second of exposure to someone infected with delta. In Australia, for example, a person was reportedly infected after a "fleeting" exposure of passing by an infected person.
  • Oh, and then there's this: In a Twitter thread, a doctor quoted in the Post story says that delta may be more than doubly contagious compared to the original virus—and that it appears to shed for longer, 18 days compared to 13, meaning quarantine lengths may need to be reconsidered. Oh, and also that the new data seems to support the idea that it's also more serious than the original.
  • Silver lining: Vaccines do still appear to be fending off serious illness and death, experts say, and the vaccinated are still less likely to catch even the delta variant.
(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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