The take-home message of this latest model is that the pandemic isn't over yet and "we're not going to be able to land the plane without turbulence," says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "How much turbulence will track with how many people are vaccinated in a given community."
"I also strongly suspect that delta is highly prone to superspreading — if I am right, it might go off like a bomb in some undervaccinated communities," Hanage adds.
Public policy and behavior could still move the dial toward milder outcomes, Lessler says.
"I think states should maybe be rethinking the speed at which they're removing mask mandates or social distancing," Lessler says. "That is something that — if you want to keep cases under control — certainly would have an impact."
Those measures would have to come from state or local leaders. Despite calls for the CDC to issue new mask guidelines, at a briefing Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky once again held firm.
She emphasized that the guidelines have always said that unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors. She added that even vaccinated people could wear masks indoors, too, if they want extra protection, especially in places where the virus is surging and there are a lot of unvaccinated people. But her main message was the same: Get vaccinated.
With that, Lessler agrees. "If we got enough people vaccinated, we could even stop the delta variant in its tracks," he says.
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