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Delta variant is rising. Breakthrough infections, too. How should I protect myself?

Karen Kaplan, Melissa Healy and Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — The delta variant of the coronavirus is turning out to be a more formidable foe than previously believed, largely thanks to its ability to infect — and be spread by — people who are fully vaccinated.

A confidential document prepared by people within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a dire view of the threat posed by the delta variant, and suggested that more aggressive action will be needed to counter it.

“The war has changed,” the document warns.

We talked to some experts about how to stay safe in light of the new developments. Here’s what they told us:

So what should we be doing?



Experts still agree that COVID-19 vaccines offer the safest route out of the pandemic. Indeed, the CDC document notes that as of Saturday, the rate of new infections was eight times lower among those who were vaccinated than among those who were not. Even better, the incidences of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths were 25 times lower for people who were vaccinated.

That said, many experts fear that if being vaccinated no longer comes with the privilege of being able to jettison face masks and social distancing, the shots will be a tougher sell for health officials to make to those who are still on the fence.

Wearing masks indoors

Researchers have found that when infected with the delta variant, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people had similar viral loads in their upper respiratory systems. That suggests they are about equally likely to spread the virus to others — and a good reason to have recommendations or mandates for indoor mask use apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.


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