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'You either get vaccinated or you will get COVID': Northeast Ohio doctors warn of increased spread from delta variant

However, experts still say 'we're in such a better place than we were a year and a half ago.'

CLEVELAND — When you hear chickenpox, you know just how contagious that is. Now, new CDC documents say the coronavirus' delta variant could be more contagious.

"Think about how quickly chickenpox can get passed in a room, in a classroom, in any kind of a setting," Dr. Kristin Englund of Cleveland Clinic said, "so this is much more transmittable."

CDC slides first leaked by the Washington Post indicate the delta variant is much more contagious than originally thought, adding, "The war against COVID has changed." Now, one case can lead to as many as 9 new infections.

"This is crunch time," Dr. Amy Edwards warned. "This virus is so contagious. You either get vaccinated or you will get COVID."

The data shows those fully vaccinated who get sick could be spreading delta at the same rate as those unvaccinated.

"The vaccine still works extraordinarily well against severe COVID," MetroHealth Medical Center's Dr. David Margolius assured. "However, with the delta variant, if you've been vaccinated, it is still possible to get sick."

"I think that was one of the questions that people had before," Englund added. "If you've been vaccinated, why do you have to wear a mask? Well, because I can pass this on to somebody else."

The CDC's county map shows more spread, with Ashland becoming the first county in Northeast Ohio to turn red. Eight other counties are orange, meaning masking indoors is recommended:

  • Erie
  • Huron
  • Geauga
  • Lorain
  • Medina
  • Portage
  • Richland
  • Trumbull

There's more coming, Englund cautioned.

"We're not there yet," she said. "We will be, we will be in time. … I wouldn't necessarily wait for Cuyahoga County to turn red on a map. I think it's time to be proactive and start wearing our masks."

To protect yourself, get the vaccine. After that, think about those you spend time with.

"I'm not worried about the grocery store by and large," Edwards explained. "I'm worried about the birthday parties, the weddings, the funerals, the life events, the religious ceremonies, that sort of thing. ... Those are going to be the spreading events."

It sounds like a backslide, but it's important to remember:

"The whole point of us slowing down the transmission was to find time to build these vaccines, to increase our capacity in the hospital," Margolius said. "We've done those things. We're in such a better place than we were a year and a half ago."