COVID-19 delta variant: Implications for employers and the return to work
Variant is more dominant, more transmissible and more virulent
The SARS-CoV-2 mutation, the “Delta variant,” is now the dominant variety of COVID-19 virus in the United States, representing 83 percent of new infections. It is more transmissible, more virulent and more dominant than the original COVID-19 virus that was prevalent last summer. Further, there is a chance that an even more infectious mutant could replace the Delta variant.
Vaccination is still the key across communities and populations, but vaccination rates have dropped since peaking in mid-April. Messenger RNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) appear to guard against severe illness and hospitalization. Unvaccinated people face substantial risk of severe illness and will contribute significantly to ongoing spread of the virus.
Employers can provide leadership in testing and vaccination. As the spread of the Delta variant progresses, some will consider instituting vaccination requirements for employees returning to the workplace. Regular, periodic workplace testing is still recommended, as the virus can be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals. And, as colder weather approaches and people are driven indoors, employers may consider recommending masks inside, especially in workplaces where social distancing is difficult.
Unvaccinated people face substantial risk of severe illness and will contribute significantly to ongoing spread of the virus.
— Troy Brennan, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health
A more completely immune population, achieved by high rates of vaccination, will eventually decrease overall viral density and the opportunity for the virus to mutate toward more infectious variants.