Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The dominant Delta variant's ability to efficiently infect people and rapidly grow inside a person is enabling the coronavirus to regain its footing in the United States.

Why it matters: "The solution is right in front of us — get everybody vaccinated and we wouldn't even be talking about this," NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Expand chart
See the interactive version here. Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Driving the news: The CDC said the "war has changed" under the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which went from about 3% of all strains a few months ago to now being close to 90%, Fauci says.

  • The CDC said Delta may be just as contagious or more contagious than chickenpox, smallpox, MERS, SARS, Ebola, the 1918 flu, the seasonal flu, and the common cold, per internal documents the Washington Post was first to publish.

What's happening: Delta has become "an incredibly efficient spreader from human to human" that binds easier to the cell receptors in the upper airway after it enters the body, replicates more quickly and transmits more readily, Fauci says.

  • "When you look at the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of an infected person with Delta, and you compare it to the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of somebody with the Alpha variant, it's sometimes as high as 1,000 times more virus," Fauci says.
  • Julie Fischer, senior technical adviser for global health for CRDF Global, says the pandemic has "entered a new phase" where a higher vaccination rate plus more masking and social distancing in certain areas will be required to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, stressed the importance at an ISDA briefing Tuesday of good indoor ventilation and using NIOSH-approved masks even in outdoor areas that are crowded.

Details: The "effective reproductive rate," or how many people are still susceptible from one infected person after taking into account the mitigating effects of immunity and vaccinations, has jumped due to the Delta variant," Fisher says.

  • It has gone from below 1 person just a couple of months ago to around 4 to 5 people in communities with 50% or lower vaccination coverage, she says.
  • Recent studies also suggest the Delta variant causes a greater degree of severe complications and hospitalizations, although more data is needed, Fauci adds.
  • There are also some indications vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus, but those numbers are low when you look at the overall number of vaccinated people, Fauci says. And vaccines are "doing what they're supposed to do" and "preventing you from getting seriously sick," he adds.

Between the lines: Resistance to vaccination is a serious, multifaceted problem, Fauci says, "ranging from needing a bit more information to waiting until the FDA approves to ideological differences."

  • Public health officials are trying to reach out via trusted messengers in the community, ranging from local doctors to community leaders, pastors and sports figures, as well as using new platforms like Instagram, he says.
  • Fauci says he's also hopeful some may be encouraged to vaccinate once the FDA gives its final approval — which he hopes will happen by mid-August after the agency has completed its regular evaluation process. The New York Times reported the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be approved by Labor Day.

Yes, but: The timing of Delta is particularly concerning because people are fatigued and schools are about to start, Fischer says.

  • "Delta changes the dynamic of responding to the pandemic again," Fischer says. "There has been sort of a complacency in the U.S. that children are not at high risk of severe disease, but I think we're hearing from the communities where there is widespread community transmission of the Delta variant that there are children becoming severely ill."

What's next: U.S. public health officials are closely watching Delta's growing sublineages, AY.1, AY.2 and AY.3, or so-called Delta Plus.

  • "We don't know right now if those other sublineages are going to make Delta even worse than it is. It doesn't look like that's the case, but we don't know," Fauci says.

The bottom line: Some people may be disturbed by changed recommendations from the CDC, Fischer says, "but it's important for people to understand what's changed is not the tools that we have. ... What's changed is the virus."

Go deeper: Follow Axios' Coronavirus Variant Tracker

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

A second flu

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Whatever living with the virus looks like, Delta-level surges aren't considered to be sustainable for the public or the hospitals that will treat the seriously infected.

Why it matters: A major determinant of how seriously we'll take the coronavirus in the future is how many hospitalizations and deaths it's causing — and whether our health system can handle the load.

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

More virus, more risk, more social distancing

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

When the Delta variant caused coronavirus infections to spike over the summer, Americans began thinking of COVID as a larger risk and resumed social distancing.

Why it matters: Life won't look normal until there's much less virus around — even if the majority of the population is vaccinated — as millions of people will voluntarily try to avoid it.

Go deeper: America's mismatched COVID fears

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

Long COVID: A disabling disease

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Millions of Americans are still suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms long after they've recovered from their original coronavirus infections, and it's very unclear what the disease's trajectory is — or even how many people are affected.

What we're watching: We still don't have a good grasp on how susceptible vaccinated people are to long COVID. If the condition remains a threat even for the vaccinated, that could shape the risks people are willing to take in the future.