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Virus Expert Issues Warning for All Americans

The Delta variant is costing lives.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The coronavirus refuses to go away this summer, as a new Delta variant proves more aggressive, and more transmissible, than any respiratory virus in recent memory. Worryingly, only half the country has been vaccinated. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is also on the board of Pfizer, appeared on Face the Nation yesterday to explain how to keep yourself safe given the rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Read on for his five essential pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Virus Expert Warns This Variant Can "Overwhelm" Your Body

Female doctor talking to a patient who is lying on hospital bed amidst essential workers.

"The virus levels that you develop early in the course of the infection have significantly higher with this Delta virus than with the old strains," said Gottlieb. "And that's why people are more contagious. That's why this is spreading more rapidly. But the other thing we know about this is that those virus levels go up very quickly. And that's why we think that it's easier for this virus to overwhelm the immune system. So for example, if you have a vaccine that you got seven or eight months ago, and your antibody levels have declining, if you get this new Delta variant, it's easier for this Delta variant to overwhelm low antibody levels. And that's why we were considering whether or not some people might need booster—boosters to increase their antibody levels. So we know that you have more virus onboard early in the course of the infection. We know that you're likely to shed more virus that makes you more contagious. It also makes it more likely that you're going to develop an infection from this new variant."


Virus Expert Says Wear a Mask Here, and Wear This Kind of Mask

Medic, nurse with face mask and blue nitride gloves sharing a N95 mask.

"If you're in a high prevalence environment where there's a lot of infection, a mask can still be helpful against this new variant," said Dr. Gottlieb. "The physical characteristics of this virus has not changed. The reason it's more transmissible is that there's simply more of it. When people get infected, they get more virus, higher viral levels, and they exude more virus. So they're more contagious. But the characteristics of the virus haven't changed as far as we know. So it's not more airborne is not more likely to be permeable through a mask. So a mask can still be helpful. I think though, if you're going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the mask does matter. So if you can get your hands on an N95 mask, that's going to afford you a lot more protection."


Virus Expert Warned You Should Not Feel "Impervious" Even After Vaccination

Senior woman with caring daughter at home

"The question I get a lot is if you are vaccinated, can you still spread the virus?" said Gottlieb. "We had pretty good data with the old strains of the coronavirus, that if you were vaccinated, you were far less likely to transmit the virus. That's probably still true. You probably less likely to transmit the virus, but if you are vaccinated and you do develop an asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection, there probably is a higher chance that you can transmit this Delta virus than some of the old strains, because there's just more of this virus, the viral that was the higher earlier in the course of the infection. So if you're around vulnerable people, if you're taking care of a newborn or an elderly patient, and you're vaccinated, you don't feel well, you should probably get yourself checked out, not assume that you're impervious to any kind of infection, even if you're vaccinated."

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Virus Expert Says Here's The "First Thing" He'd Urge Right Now

Doctor Giving Older Woman Corona Virus Vaccine Injection In Hospital

"How should Americans think about what's happening right now and how they should make their own risk judgments," asked the host. "The first thing I would urge Americans to do is to get vaccinated," said Gottlieb. "We know that vaccines are highly effective. Even against this Delta variant. There was data in the New England Journal of Medicine out this week, showing that the vaccines are 88% effective against symptomatic disease. And certainly anyone who goes out to get vaccinated right now is going to have a vaccine that protects them through the fall and the winter. So they're going to have broad, durable protection from that vaccine."

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta


How to Stay Safe Out There

Young man wearing two face masks.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek