This Is Exactly When the Delta Variant Surge Will Be the Worst, Expert Says
The variant has weeks to go before it will hit its peak in the U.S., the former FDA head says.
The light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the COVID pandemic seemed so close before a new strain, referred to as the Delta variant, started circulating in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Delta variant is so transmissible that it's even bypassing the vaccines for some—leading to breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals. And experts warn that it's likely we have not seen the worst of this new variant yet—hardly, in fact. A former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official has pinpointed exactly when the Delta variant surge is expected to reach its highest levels across the country, and if he's right, we still have a long way to go.
As of right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the Delta variant accounts for nearly 58 percent of all COVID cases in the U.S. The variant was only responsible for around 31 percent of cases two weeks prior and 3 percent at the end of May. This indicates that the Delta variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country—and Scott Gottlieb, MD, former head of the FDA, says it's unlikely to let up anytime soon.
Gottlieb recently said that the worst of the Delta variant surge may still be months away. During a July 14 interview on CNBC's Squawk Box, Gottlieb said that the variant will most likely continue to spread across in the U.S. over the course of the next three months. "The Delta variant is going to move its way through the country over the course of August and September, maybe into October. That's what the modeling shows, that's what we expect," he said. "The peak of this epidemic will be sometime around the end of September… That seems to be what is happening."
Despite many COVID-related restrictions being lifted since the CDC changed its recommendations for vaccinated people in May, Gottlieb said that some areas should consider reinstating them, specifically parts of the country were vaccination rates are low and cases are climbing. Among the eight states that have seen their COVID cases double in the past week, according to data from The Washington Post, six have vaccinated less than 50 percent of their residents.
"I think we're in a situation right now nationally where public health guidance needs to be dictated by what the prevalence is, what the local risk is," Gottlieb said. "We're not going to have national mandates anymore. This is going to be a very regionalized epidemic. If you're in a location where there's dense spread—and there are parts of the country where it's very dense right now—I think people need to start taking precautions."
But it's not just unvaccinated people who should be on the lookout, Gottlieb said. He also recommended that fully vaccinated people who may still be vulnerable to the virus in these areas should consider readopting COVID precautions. This includes people who are over 65, who are immunocompromised, or who have other high-risk health conditions. A new July 6 study from Israel analyzed Pfizer recipients who had breakthrough infections, and found that 40 percent were immunosuppressed, and 94 percent had at least one comorbidity.
"I would be taking some precautions at this point until the epidemic moves its way through," Gottlieb said, referring to vulnerable people in at-risk areas. "Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. It's going to get worse before it gets better in terms of the spread of this infection right now."