COVID-19 Update: Delta Variant, Vaccines, Testing and Masks
Dr. Emilio Carranco, Chief Medical Officer | July 26, 2021
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
A month ago, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths had declined to their lowest levels in a year. Now, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are climbing. In Texas during the past month, COVID-19 cases have increased from about 741 cases/day to 3,804 cases/day and the positivity rate has increased from 3.2% to 14.0%. This dramatic change is most likely due to low vaccination rates and the Delta variant which is spreading rapidly. The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is increasing again and we must take steps to protect ourselves and others.
DELTA VARIANT TARGETS PRIMARILY THE UNVACCINATED
The CDC reports that over 80% of new COVID-19 cases are due to the Delta variant. This virus is very contagious. It is estimated that one infected person can infect 3-7 other people. The greatest rate of infection is occurring in persons aged 18-29. The CDC reports that 97% of those hospitalized and 99.5% of those dying are unvaccinated. However, cases of breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated persons are occurring with California reporting that 20% of new cases are in fully vaccinated persons.
VACCINES STILL EFFECTIVE AGAINST THE DELTA VARIANT
The authorized COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the Delta variant in preventing hospitalization and death—but they are not 100% protective. A study by Public Health England suggests that two doses of Pfizer are 88% effective in preventing illness and 96% effective in preventing hospitalization. A Canadian study revealed that two doses of Moderna are 87% effective in preventing illness. A recent study by Johnson & Johnson revealed that their one-dose vaccine produced a strong antibody response against the Delta variant that lasted at least 8 months. However, another study by New York University suggests that the Johnson & Johnson antibody response is lower against the Delta variant and may require a booster shot.
THE BENEFIT OF VACCINES
Vaccination allows us to resume activities in a safer manner. The benefits of vaccination include:
- Do not have to wear masks or physically distance in most settings
- If exposed to a positive case, do not have to quarantine or test
- Do not have to quarantine or test after most travel
- Less likely to miss class, work or practice
- Breakthrough infections are milder and less likely to be spread
VACCINES ARE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
With over 335 million doses of vaccines administered, and close monitoring by the CDC and FDA, the data clearly show that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective and their benefits far outweigh any risks. Vaccination rates in Texas are low with only about 52% of all Texans 12 and older fully vaccinated. Vaccination is our most effective way to end the pandemic and our best chance for a “normal” fall semester. Vaccinations are available at the Student Health Center Monday-Friday by calling 512-245-2161 for an appointment. Several large vaccination events are planned at the start of the fall semester and details will be available soon. For information about vaccination providers near you, check Texas Vaccine Finder or CDC Vaccine Finder.
A significant proportion of those infected are asymptomatic and don’t know they are infected. With the Delta variant spreading so rapidly and often causing mild symptoms like a cold (headache, sore throat, runny nose and fever), it is very important to test for COVID-19. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections on our campuses, the university recommends that:
- all unvaccinated faculty, staff and students get a PCR test for COVID-19 two weeks before the start of the fall semester and every two weeks during the fall semester
- students living in residence halls, regardless of vaccination status, get a PCR test for COVID-19 two weeks before move-in for the fall semester
- anyone who develops cold-like symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, get tested for COVID-19
Please check TXST COVID-19 Testing for information on free COVID-19 testing. For those living in other areas of the state, you can check with local healthcare providers, health departments or Curative COVID-19 Testing for testing availability. If you have a positive test, please follow CDC guidance on isolation and report to Bobcat Trace as soon as possible.
MASK UP FOR EXTRA PROTECTION
Face masks have proven very effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses. During this COVID-19 surge, the university recommends that everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear face masks indoors. Face masks are not necessary outdoors but are recommended for unvaccinated persons in crowded settings. When the COVID-19 situation improves and transmission levels return to low levels, this extra safety measure can be discontinued.
IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US TO SUCCEED
We are again facing COVID-19 challenges as we prepare for the fall semester. For the unvaccinated, the Delta variant represents a significant risk of infection and illness. If we vaccinate and wear face masks, we have our best opportunity to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses. Without everyone’s commitment to stop COVID-19, it will be difficult to have the “normal” fall semester we all want. So, VACCINATE AND MASK UP FOR TEXAS STATE!
Dr. Emilio Carranco
Chief Medical Officer
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Director, Student Health Center