Countries around the globe, and states throughout the United States, are seeing the number of people infected with COVID rise as the Delta variant spreads. Even here in Philadelphia, we’re seeing more people test positive. 

Because of the rapid increase in cases here and around the country, and because we are seeing hospitalizations rise among children in Philadelphia, we are now strongly recommending that everyone mask while indoors in places where you do not know that everyone is vaccinated. 

People who are not yet fully vaccinated should take additional precautions including avoiding crowded indoor spaces and considering double masking. In general, we recommend that you choose outdoor public places over indoors when you have the option as transmission is much less likely in outdoor settings. 

The best way to protect yourself is to be fully vaccinated. Research has shown that having two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, both of which have been shown to be safe and effective, is more than 90% protective against the Delta variant. 

The Health Department strongly encourages everyone that is not yet fully vaccinated to get both of their doses as soon as they are eligible. You can find the hundreds of locations that are administering the vaccines in Philadelphia, all for free, and often without an appointment needed, at phila.gov/vaccine. 

About the Delta variant

Like the flu and other viruses, COVID sometimes makes mistakes when reproducing. If this mistake ends up being better at infecting other people and starts to spread to lots of people, scientists will notice the change and call it a variant. There have been several different COVID variants identified already and more are expectedCOVID variants are named following the Greek alphabet. There was an Alpha variant, a Beta variant, Gamma, Epsilon, and Delta, among others. 

Researchers have found that the viral load of the Delta variant can be 1000 times greater than earlier COVID variants and about 50 percent more infectious than the COVID variants we’re used to. That means that it can infect more people, more easily. It’s not necessarily more dangerous, but the more people who become infected, the more likely that someone will end up in the hospital or worse. 

People who are fully vaccinated against COVID have been found to be very well protected, although as with any vaccine, that protection is not 100%. People who only have one dose, or haven’t been vaccinated at all, are at a high risk. And it’s not just people who refuse to be vaccinated or still have questions about the vaccine who are at risk. It’s children who are at risk, too. No one under the age of twelve is eligible to be vaccinated right now, so they are just as exposed as everyone else was last spring and this past winter. 

How can we protect each other

Nearly 99 percent of all cases of COVID in the last seven months have been in people who aren’t fully vaccinated. Nearly 99% of everyone who’s been hospitalized from COVID in the last seven months was not fully vaccinated. Nearly 99 percent of everyone who’s died from to COVID in the last seven months was not fully vaccinated. Simply put: being fully vaccinated protects you from COVID and the Delta variant and helps to prevent you from spreading the virus to others including children too young to be vaccinated. Get vaccinated if you’re eligible and get your second dose as soon as you can. 

In addition to getting vaccinated, there are other things you can do to protect yourself. The Health Department is making new recommendations intended to protect everyone who has not been vaccinated yet or isn’t eligible to be vaccinated.

The Health Department strongly recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear masks in all public indoor places. 

In addition to that recommendation, the Health Department also recommends that Philadelphians:  

  • Choose outdoor rather than indoor spaces 
  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces
  • Mask while indoors around people you don’t know are vaccinated 
  • For unvaccinated people, consider double masking while in indoor public spaces 

We know that everyone has been enjoying this summer. By taking these simple recommendations, we can stop COVID and all of its variants. We can protect ourselves and our loved ones. We can keep Philadelphia open and safe.