By Rebecca Myers, MSN, RN, NPD-BC for MEHOP
Four Things You Can Do TODAY to Protect Yourself from the COVID-19 Delta Variant
As the delta variant continues to spread at an alarming rate, there are at least four things you can do for yourself and those around you:
- Get vaccinated.
The delta variant is the most contagious form of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID).
According to Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research, the number of delta viral particles in the respiratory system is 1000 times higher than the original COVID virus.
Vaccines are widely available. While the delta variant can cause breakthrough COVID infections in fully vaccinated people, the vaccine greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. The fully vaccinated person who gets a COVID infection is having milder symptoms, and most are not being hospitalized. This means that you can recover at home.
“Vaccines are the medical miracle of 2020, but we need to re-emphasize basic public health measures, including masking, physical distancing, good ventilation indoors and limiting gatherings of people in close proximity with poor ventilation. We give the virus an advantage to evolve when we congregate in more confined spaces.”
Ray Stuart, MD, an expert in COVID and Vice Chair of Medicine for Data Integrity and Analytics at Johns Hopkins.
2. Wash your hands.
Hand washing continues to be the number one way to prevent illness and the spread of disease.
The CDC recommends these key times to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
- If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, you should immediately clean your hands by either washing them with soap and water or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
3. Wear your mask.
On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors in “areas of substantial and high transmission”, regardless of vaccination status. The delta variant is proven to be highly transmissible and is the most dangerous COVID variant so far. Because the delta variant is so contagious and its ability to cause breakthrough infection for fully vaccinated people, masks are recommended and in places with high volumes of infection and may be required in some places. Both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant.
According to a study in Emerging Infectious Diseases (2020), protection from cloth masks used in the community can be improved by using material that is tightly woven (like cotton), by adding layers, by using one designed for proper filtration and fit, and by daily washing.
Facemasks, when added to other precautions like handwashing and social distancing, can help to slow the spread of COVID.
Follow these steps from the Mayo Clinic for putting on and taking off your mask:
- Wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on your mask.
- Place your mask over your mouth and nose and chin.
- Tie it behind your head or use ear loops. Make sure it’s snug.
- Don’t touch your mask while wearing it.
- If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
- If your mask becomes wet or dirty, switch to a clean one. Put the used mask in a sealable bag until you can get rid of it or wash it.
- Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
- Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
- Regularly wash cloth masks in the washing machine or by hand. (They can be washed along with other laundry.)
4. Keep your distance.
Stay away from other people to avoid catching or spreading COVID. Avoid crowds and practice physical distancing, which means to allow six feet between you and anyone else.
Other tips to keep your distance:
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Call or video chat with friends instead of getting together.
- Avoid people who look sick.
- Shop during non-peak times or use grocery deliver or curbside pickup
How can the delta variant and other COVID infections be stopped?
Dr. Poland (Mayo Clinic, July 2021) says we need higher rates of immunization to stop the delta variant from spreading and to stop the virus from mutating into new variants. Get your vaccination today, wash your hands, wear a mask, and keep your distance from other people.
“Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the development of worse and worse variants. It will prevent severe cases of hospitalization and death, even in the face of a variant. The alternative is to lose another 600,000-plus Americans. Only this time it will, unfortunately, involve younger people.”
Gregory Poland, MD, infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky. July 27, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Handwashing. Last reviewed June 10, 2021.
Chughtal, A., Seale, H., & Macintyre, C. (2020). Effectiveness of cloth masks for protection against severe acute respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. Emerging infectious Diseases journal – CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26(10). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-0948_article
Johns Hopkins Medicine. New Variants of Coronavirus: What You Should Know. Updated July 23, 2021.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. How Can I Protect Myself from Coronavirus? Updated July 30, 2020.
Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast. Stopping the spiral of the COVID-19 delta variant. July 28, 2021.
Mayo Clinic. How well do facemasks protect against coronavirus? August 4, 2021.