Dr. Adams discusses Delta variant of COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. Jerome Adams, WISH-TV medical expert, joined Alexis Rogers on Monday with answers to the latest medical questions surrounding the Delta variant of COVID-19.

On Tuesday Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine will give an update about COVID-19 rates and vaccination in Marion County, and we could learn more about whether the county plans to lift more coronavirus restrictions. This comes as leaders become more concerned with the Delta variant of the virus.

The variant is hitting hard in places like California: Should we be worried in Indiana?

“Well it’s important for people to know that viruses mutate. It’s what they do, and we always knew that we were going to deal with different types of mutations. This Delta variant is concerning, however, because it’s been proven to be more transmissible, which means it’s easier to hop from one person to another person. We know that India saw its cases start to trend down and then they had another spike, a really severe spike that overwhelmed their health care systems with the Delta variant. It now accounts for the majority of cases in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant. And in the United States, it’s 20% of cases. So that’s why we’re concerned. Here’s the good news. The good news is that the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines both so far are working really well against all variants, which is why it’s incredibly important for us to continue to encourage vaccinations, particularly in minority communities, particularly in rural communities, particularly in men and in younger people. All these are groups of people who have lower than average vaccination rates,” Adams said.

What are the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control saying about masking?

“Well, we want people to know and here’s what I want people to know. It’s always about belts and suspenders. Even if you are vaccinated, the vaccines are 95% effective against hospitalization, death, severe disease, but they’re not 100%. So even if you’re vaccinated and even if your vaccine is working well, you still need to be cautious, you still need to think about being socially distant from someone who you don’t know. You still need to think about: Are you in a well-ventilated place? Are you outside? And masking is one of those protective mechanisms that helps us when there’s uncertainty, uncertainty about who you’re around, uncertainty about new variants. And so the WHO has actually recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks on a global basis because so few people outside of the United States are vaccinated and because the Delta variant really is taking over. Here in the United States, it’s still going to be on a case-by-case basis, but I would tell people, I still wear masks — you and I were just talking — when we’re in a tight environment, when we’re indoors. Because 95% isn’t 100%, and I don’t know if that person sitting right next to me in a tightly packed, not well ventilated restaurant or elevator or wherever you may be is someone who is carrying the Delta variant,” Adams said.

Should we be concerned about lockdowns and restrictions coming back?

“Well, you know, I’ve always said, freedom comes with responsibility. Freedom isn’t free, and we have a responsibility, now that we’re getting more freedom, to act responsibly, to do everything we can to prevent another surge. The lockdowns, the restrictions: They came and they could come back if there’s a threat to our hospital capacity. So we’re starting to see cases that were going down, level off. If we see cases go up and we see hospitalizations and deaths go up, then we may need to have restrictions in certain places so that we don’t overwhelm our health care capacity. I don’t think we’re going to see a surge like we saw at any time last year because we have so many people who are vaccinated and people who have prior infection do have some protection. But that said, it could happen particularly when you look at Indiana — 40% vaccination rate — lower than the national average. When you look at these subgroups again: African Americans, Hispanics, younger people who have lower than average vaccination rates,” Adams said.