Hot Topics in Infection Prevention: Delta Variant Grows, Australia’s Woes, Time to Heal

While many infection preventionists are attending the annual APIC Conference, there’s been a lot going on in the world of COVID-19 and infectious diseases.

Delta Variant Cases Increase in the United States

In the United States, 46% of the population is fully vaccinated and the Delta variant is increasing across all regions. In some areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts increases in some regions to more than 45% of new infections. What’s starting to worry many in public health is that with a new, more transmissible variant (Delta) picking up speed and less than half the U.S. fully vaccinated, there’s a real potential for clusters and surges in vulnerable populations. “According to data from the Washington Post, new daily cases in the United States have risen by 14.8% over the past 7 days, with significant increases in Nevada (55%), Wyoming (18%), Missouri (20%), and Arkansas (55%). New daily deaths still fell by 0.7% over the past

week, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell by 4.7%. In Los Angeles, city health officials are recommending that people wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, the Associated Press reports, because of the growing threat from the Delta variant. (The World Health Organization recommended last Friday that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors.) Needless to say, we’re in a vulnerable position and need to continue to increase vaccination distribution.

Australia’s COVID Outbreak Grows

In a country that has prioritized a “Zero COVID” approach to the pandemic through strict border restrictions, a lackluster vaccination strategy and the Delta variant have created a vulnerable environment where the disease could quick overrun public health efforts. With 80% of the Australian population living under restrictions, things are not looking good. BBC’s Frances Mao noted that “Sydney—Australia's biggest and richest city—managed to avoid regular snap lockdowns helped by a “gold standard” contact-tracing system. But in the past 2 weeks or so, the Delta variant has managed to breach the city's defenses. In 1 week, positive cases have ballooned to more than 100. By June 25, officials conceded the need to put Sydney into lockdown. By the following Monday, the crisis had become a national one—with outbreaks in 4 states and territories.” In many ways, Australia is an unfortunate example of why border closures alone are imperfect, and a robust vaccination strategy is crucial—less than 5% of Australia is vaccinated and with Delta in circulation, it could easily spread like wildfire.

Mental Health Reminder

Much of our week this week at the annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) will include reminders of the work infection preventionists do—this is truly inspiring but can also be triggering. As we often fall in the middle of the Venn diagram between public health and health care, it’s important to remember how vulnerable each group is and the significant symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD that are being experienced. Be kind to yourself and take a moment to acknowledge the work done in the past 18 months, but also that it’s OK to not be OK right now. Healing will take time and the entire infection prevention community is behind you.