News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation |

News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation


Very quickly after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, you could feel a huge difference. It was as if we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Many started to go out. Some felt comfortable spending time with vaccinated friends. Life started to feel normal again.

While that is encouraging, we should approach this newfound freedom with cautious optimism. There are still considerations to make as we venture out and circulate among vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Cases are rising again in Nevada County. Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has seen an increase in COVID-19 positive cases. While the majority of cases are unvaccinated individuals, now that the Delta variant is in Nevada County, we need to be thoughtful.

It is not unusual for a virus to mutate and spread. The delta variant, a version of COVID-19, is now in over 80 countries since it was first detected in India. Named by the World Health Organization (WHO), which names variants after letters in the Greek alphabet, this variant now accounts for 25% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Also known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant is a version of Sars-COV-2. It contains mutations in the gene that codes for the spike protein which the virus uses to enter cells in the body. It is considered a “variant of concern” by WHO, a designation given when evidence shows a variant is more contagious and transmissible, causes more severe illness, or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines or treatment.

In the United Kingdom (UK), 95% of new COVID-19 cases are tied to the Delta variant. While studies are ongoing, UK public health officials believe this variant is 40 to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha version. To determine transmissibility of a new virus, epidemiologists track close contacts of infected people with different versions of the virus to see who tests positive.

While research is still being conducted, a June study published in the journal “The Lancet,” examined the Delta strain in Scotland where it had become the dominant virus. Scientists found the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 nearly doubled for those patients infected with the Delta variant in comparison with individuals infected by the Alpha variant.

The good news is that based upon blood samples from vaccinated people, vaccines appear to offer good protection against the Delta variant. Current research shows the protective antibodies are holding up against several of the circulating variants, including Delta. A study released in England found two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 96% effective against this variant. It also showed two doses of Moderna were 92% effective.

While it makes sense to be thoughtful and cautious, for those who have been vaccinated, the risks are low. It is like many things in life, you have to make choices. Most of us put on sunscreen when going outside so if you are attending a crowded gathering and are health compromised, you still may want to wear a mask and social distance.

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