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Michaela Thomas has her temperature checked at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Michaela Thomas has her temperature checked by certified medical assistant Stephanie Amador prior to a swab test as XpresCheck opens a COVID-19 testing site at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. The location offers rapid molecular COVID-19 tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Be warned — the delta variant is spreading wildly in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the delta variant of the novel coronavirus — which was originally discovered in India — has become a “variant of concern” in the United States.

  • The “variant of concern” title is given to virus strains that the CDC feels are more transmissible and can cause more severe illness.

For the delta variant, the CDC said there is “increased transmissibility” and a “potential reduction in neutralization” by some antibody treatments. There’s also a “potential reduction in neutralization by post-vaccination” — meaning that the variant can potentially evade the vaccine.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN that the new designation is worrying, especially for the unvaccinated.

  • “I’m worried about those who are unvaccinated,” he said, adding that the delta variant “is rapidly increasing here in the United States.”

Murthy also told CNN that the delta variant has shown to be more dangerous and should be a sign to all to not ignore the virus mutation.

  • “The second reason it’s concerning is that there is some data to indicate that it may in fact also be more dangerous, may cause more severe illness. That still needs to be understood more clearly, but these are two important concerns and they explain in part … why this is become the dominant variant in the U.K., where over 90% of cases are the delta variant,” Murthy said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” over the weekend that the delta variant is likely spreading in areas where this is a low vaccination rate.

  • “I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination — particularly in parts of the South, where you have some cities where vaccination rates are low — there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb said the variant will continue to spread and become the dominant strain in the U.S.

Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the University of California San Francisco’s department of medicine, said that unvaccinated people need to worry about the variant.

  • “If you’re fully vaxxed, I wouldn’t be too worried, especially if you’re in a highly vaxxed region,” he said.
  • “If you’re not vaccinated: I’d be afraid. Maybe even very afraid,” he said.

But, Wachter said, getting vaccinated can help you.

  • “If you’re unvaxxed, get your shots! You may be reassured by a low local case rate, but don’t be: it may be due to summer plus the still-low delta fraction. Both will change,” he said.
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