Just when we started to feel more comfortable safely seeing friends and visiting our favorite places, the Delta variant of COVID-19 reared its ugly head. But with this new highly contagious strain of the virus that has ruled our lives for the better part of the last two years, we’re left wondering: Will we need to return to podding, or forming small, self-contained networks of people who limit their non-distanced social interaction to one another? We checked in with Dr. Vivek Cherian, MD, an Internal Medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System, for his take on this new variant, and whether or not we should start hanging out in pods again.
Should We All Be Podding Again? A Doctor Weighs In
The Delta Variant Is Most Dangerous for Unvaccinated People
Dr. Cherian tells us that this particular variant of the virus poses the biggest threat to those who aren’t yet vaccinated. “If you are unvaccinated and lax about wearing masks, ultimately you run a high risk of getting infected,” he notes, adding, “There is no question this is currently a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He stresses that no vaccine—including the COVID vaccine—is 100 percent effective, but that those folks who are vaccinated are very well protected from getting infected. “The good news, however, is the majority of cases will have little or no symptoms which means the vaccine continues to protect extremely well against severe disease, hospitalization and deaths,” he stresses.
Podding Isn’t Necessary for Vaccinated People…But Young Kids Are a Different Story
While Dr. Cherian tells us that podding isn’t necessary for vaccinated individuals, wearing a mask in public indoor settings is advisable to keep both yourself and others safe. Still, “Given that children are still largely unvaccinated, it would be advisable for schools to maintain pods,” he adds. “Classroom pods help to isolate any potential COVID cases so that the illness doesn’t run rampant through an entire school population.”
The tide will likely change, Dr. Cherian tells us, when individuals under the age of 12 are approved for receiving vaccines. However, that’s only to the degree that those individuals get vaccinated. “There has been a lot of controversy regarding the possibility of mandating vaccines at schools or businesses etc., but it’s important to note that many vaccines are already mandated by public schools.” He concludes, “I am hopeful that another game changer will be when the FDA officially approves the vaccines which hopefully will bring about a broader acceptance not only for individuals who have been holding out to receive the vaccine, but also that states, schools, and even businesses will feel empowered to start mandating vaccines.”
Even If You’re Vaccinated, You Should Wear Masks in Certain Cases
Still, even if you’re fully vaccinated and you do get a breakthrough infection, Dr. Cherian notes that the data now shows that the level of virus remains quite high in your nasopharynx (unlike the previous alpha strain), “Which means even though you are protected from getting severe disease or being hospitalized, you can still transmit that to somebody else, which is the fundamental basis of the CDC’s new recommendation that you should wear masks in public indoor settings when you are in a region with a high level of infection.” So no, it’s not time to throw out those masks just yet.