Delta variant could cause ‘very dense outbreaks’ in unvaccinated rural areas

The Delta variant is rapidly spreading across the US. Already accounting for about 20% of the new cases, this highly contagious variant threatens another wave on an exhausted medical system that hasn’t recovered from the first two waves of COVID. In an appearance on Face the Nation, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the worst hit will be areas with low vaccination rates. Given how quickly the Delta variant spreads, the best bet those areas have is for their state’s governments to start reinforcing the health care facilities now.

As the U.S. continues to navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said areas of the country could experience “very dense outbreaks” with the concerning Delta variant continuing to circulate.

“It’s going to be hyper-regionalized, where there are certain pockets of the country [where] we can have very dense outbreaks,” Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

The most vulnerable areas continue to be those with low vaccination rates and low rates of immunity from prior infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many southern states have vaccination rates that lag behind the national average.

“I think as you look across the United States, if you’re a community that has low vaccination rates and you also think that there was low immunity from prior infection, so the virus really hasn’t coursed through the local population, those communities are vulnerable,” he said. “So, I think governors need to be thinking about how they build out health care resources in areas of the country where you still have a lot of vulnerability.”

[From CBS News]

Man, this is bleak. A huge concern with the Delta variant is how quickly it spreads. So quickly, in fact, that these reports have jumped over prevention to management. I don’t necessarily think they’re trying to be scaremongers. There are sections of the population that are so widely unvaccinated that once the Delta variant hits, there won’t be time to play catch up, a system must be in place. That’s scary and I hope those areas are taking this seriously. Most people in Los Angeles took COVID seriously and we ended up in a dire situation at the start of this year – and that was with systems in place.

Much focus is on the South with many states well below 50% vaccination rates. With lockdown orders lifted and folks traveling, this Delta variant is going to explode along the southern hemisphere. I’m also very worried about the unhoused communities in large cities everywhere. Make no mistake, this risk affects all of us. As CB pointed out yesterday, even if most of us have been vaccinated, we may not die from it, but we could be affected with potential long-haul effects. And any variant that lingers and is passed around, is given more of a chance to replicate, mutate and evolve into something more virulent. Wear your mask and stay safe.




Photos credit: Twitter, Alex Voulgaris and Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash, Mauricio Mascaro on Pexels

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34 Responses to “Delta variant could cause ‘very dense outbreaks’ in unvaccinated rural areas”

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  1. Case says:

    I’m grateful to live in a Northern state with high vaccination rates and a governor who I believe will put safety measures back in place if things get bad again. I’m so so so sorry to those living in areas with lower vaccination rates. Please be careful and stay safe!

    I told my boss I wasn’t ready to fly this summer and she’s been making snide remarks about how she understands I have concerns “even though I’m vaccinated.” I was starting to feel bad and wondered if I should tell her I’ll travel, but now I feel totally justified.

    • Tate says:

      My state is at 70% vaccinated and I am grateful for that. I will keep masking up for as long as I need to.

      • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

        What state are you in? Vermont leads the nation (per ABC news covid vaccine tracker) at 65%. My elderly mother still lives there, and while she is fully vaccinated and very cautious, I’m still worried about her.

    • Teebee says:

      I’m in a conservative province of Canada about to go restriction free July 1. I expressed my concern for that and how I will continue to wear a mask inside public spaces regardless. Most response was negative, like how afraid am I, stay home and live in fear… Damn people don’t appreciate that until there were vaccines all we had were precautions, especially masks. They work damnit! And until we’re down to almost zero spread how hard is it to continue, at minimum, mask wearing in indoor public spaces!?

      • Kaylove says:

        You must be in Alberta! I’m terrified for July 1st to come..

      • LaurenMichelle says:

        I live in Ontario, and I am fully vaccinated. We are moving to stage 2 reopening tomorrow. I will continue to wear my mask indefinitely, even if I am advised that I do not need to wear one. There are not enough people (approx. 37% currently) fully vaccinated to stop wearing masks or let my guard down. I see pictures of thousands of people at crowded local beaches, unmasked , using filthy public bathrooms, eating fries with their dirty hands, and wonder how all of this is going to play out. People are not social distancing, and acting like covid is over. Hope we are not locked down again by September.

      • HoofRat says:

        I’m a fully-vaccinated Albertan, and you better believe I’m continuing to mask and distance, even if our idiot Premier says it’ll be the “best summer EVAR!). Even if I were inclined to go to a Canada Day celebration this year (YMMV, but it doesn’t feel respectful to Indigenous people in the context of the discovery of residential school mass graves); I would still avoid any crowds. This is all happening waaaaay too quickly.

      • Golly Gee says:

        B.C. Is expected to announce that masks will no longer be needed an indoor public spaces as of July 1. I can’t believe they are going ahead with this in spite of WHO recommendations.

      • Phoenix_Rising says:

        I’m also in Canada, we actually have moved to phase 2, today. I will continue to wear my mask indoors and outside, heck I even wear an N95. My family will continue to follow our own rules because the government continues to flip flop and I don’t trust people at this point, a lot have proven to be complete jackasses.

    • Anne Call says:

      LA county just put out a bulletin that everyone should wear their mask indoors whether they are vaccinated or not. They specifically mention indoor restaurants, grocery stores, retail, movie theatres. I’m in a highly vaccinated area (Santa Barbara) but I know two thirty something guys who refuse to get vaccinated. We may never get rid of this damn virus. It died out in 1919 without vaccines but the world is very different now with constant travel allowing variants to circle the globe.

    • liz says:

      I’m in New York and we’ve started reopening everything – I went to see the Foo Fighters last week and have tickets to see Stephen Colbert in two weeks (my husband jokes that I am the personification of pent-up demand for live entertainment). I didn’t wear a mask to see the Foos, but I’m seriously considering it for Colbert (if we decide to go at all). It’s getting scary again and I’m not ready for that.

      I believe that the governor will shut everything down again if the Delta variant starts making inroads here. And I will be OK with that.

      • Phoenix_Rising says:

        Thank you for recognizing it is getting scary again because my son is now talking about visiting in August. I finally had it and told him, to even think about going on a plane knowing Delta is probably going to be rampant and being in another country during the pandemic is sheer madness at this point!

  2. Tx_mom says:

    Hot spots are appearing in rural areas of Texas. I’ve gone back to masking as a default — while I am fully vaccinated, I live in Houston. Houston has the biggest medical center in the world and it’s standard operating procedure for the sickest people in the region to end up here — medical care in rural areas is for shit. We know for a fact that the delta variant is in our city and yet parents are letting their unprotected kids run around maskless everywhere. Fall could be bad.

    • Gemgirlaaa says:

      In the Austin suburbs the unmasked are everywhere including manning the registers at HEB stores.

      Shopping, dining, kids camps going strong, it’s like the wealthy Rebuglicans think they are totally immune now…thanks to the rest of us getting vaccinated.

      Is it wrong to hope that more of them can just die this time? I mean really. Also, my dog needs Ivermectin to prevent heartworm you tools. I mean, talk about experimenting on yourself 🙄

  3. KNy says:

    The perfect storm in the South will be the Delta variant hitting them while they all go indoors in the AC to escape the heat. It’s hard for me to imagine how fast this variant is spreading because what we (in NYC) were hit with in March 2020 seemed to spread pretty damn fast to me. I remember not 10 minutes going by without hearing ambulance sirens. The only good thing is at least some portion of these Southern states are vaccinated so hopefully the healthcare workers – if they are vaccinated – won’t be as much at risk as last year.

    • Lizzie says:

      Not just southern states. MO has one of the lowest vaccination rates plus high Indian Delta variant. I’m in St Louis where we have a higher vaccination rate but I worry about children who cannot get the vaccine yet. I cannot wait for that to be approved.

    • dj says:

      In Missouri, the bigger cities like St. Louis and Kansas City are more highly vaccinated (and vote Democratic). While the rural areas have the lowest vaccinations (to almost none) and are filling up the cities hospitals with Delta cases. The rural areas here are really going to be in trouble and may be wiped out.

  4. girl_ninja says:

    This falls squarely at the feet of Trump and MAGA GOP plain and simple. There is a variant because they didn’t work hard to stop the spread from the start. Then anti-vaxxers with their anti-science nonsense compounded the problem. We are still in the thick of this thing no matter how well states like mine are doing.

  5. TeamAwesome says:

    I direct a college choir in one of the lowest vaccinated states, so right in the middle of a constant clustercuss. Cool. Cool cool cool.

  6. Angie says:

    This is Darwinism playing out right in front of our eyes. I just hate it that the vulnerable and those who cannot get vaccinated for whatever reason are also at risk and the potential for variants hurting the vaccinated. Otherwise…if you choose to not get vaccinated and have had the oppportunity (which you have if you’re in the US) then what shall happen will happen.

    • Snuffles says:

      Darwinism. Exactly. The Biden Administration is busting their asses making sure that everyone who WANTS a vaccine can get one. At this point, if you’re not vaccinated, it’s most likely a CHOICE. And if you choose NOT to, you suffer the consequences.

      • Tourmaline says:

        You are clearly not a parent to a child under 12. It’s not a CHOICE in that situation.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Oh, damn, I was just scrolling along to make an unpleasant joke about multiple deep- south, delta Darwin awards pending…

    • Totorochan says:

      This is it, I worry about the people with cancer, autoimmune conditions etc. for whom vaccines may be contraindicated or less effective, as well as teens/children who aren’t eligible in their countries, who may be infected by the antivax crowd.

      And of course, the Delta variant is better at infecting partly or even fully vaccinated people, so it will potentially affect them too, and we don’t know yet whether being vaccinated protects against long covid if you get a mild case.

      I know people (in various countries) who aren’t necessarily antivax as such but who are vaccine hesitant as they don’t trust the technology or fear side effects, or worry about its impact on their health conditions. Except maybe in the latter case I don’t agree and wish they would get a vaccine, I know they risk infecting others, and yet I can’t feel they deserve to get very sick or die.

      I also know perfectly nice people who don’t bother to get a seasonal flu shot. Uptake for that in recent years has been quite low so I wonder if the pandemic will have an effect on that going forward, as we (in Canada) have on the whole been pretty eager to get the covid vaccines.

  7. Lizzie says:

    Also I think this will slow down all of the ‘let’s get everybody back in the office’ campaign.

  8. EnormousCoat says:

    MAGA is really picking off the base – not a good growth strategy. It reminds me of when smokers refused to believe smoking caused cancer, even as they and family and friends were dying from it and after the government was putting warnings everywhere. It is hard for me to muster sympathy for anti-maskers/vaxxers because they aren’t just ignorant, they’re hostile and anti-social and they are also proud of it.

  9. Malificent says:

    Mask mandates need to be re-instituted. I live in a purple area of a purple state, and every single person I know who is anti-vax is also anti-mask. They will only social distance if forced to do so.

  10. Lunasf17 says:

    Yet people still claim that the vaccines are “experimental” and untested yet have no problem being the test subjects for the delta variant. People are…interesting….

  11. Lila says:

    The This Week in Virology and Coronacast podcasts both had some interesting data on delta. Apparently they used to see more pockets within a family (one member would get it, others wouldn’t). Now they’re seeing entire families catching delta at once. The birthday party super spreader event in Australia had 10/30 attendees catch the virus. It really is so much more transmissible. And fully half of all of Israel’s cases are in fully vaccinated individuals. Yikes to all of those numbers! I’m happy to keep my mask on, even being fully vaxxed.

  12. Betsy says:


  13. Murphy says:

    “The South” and “southern hemisphere” are not the same areas, just FYI.

  14. Turtledove says:

    Gotta say it is so nice to see so many SANE comments.

    My kid is 11, and i am doubting that they will have a vaccine approved / available by the time school starts back up in the Fall. They were remote this year, can’t be next year unless we were to homeschool and we both work full time. So, I am concerned. Our town did away with social distancing and masks in school as of April.

    But it seems like we are the only ones in our area that DO worry. And we are in a blue state, though our town, sadly, had a fairly close Biden/Trump split.

    I am seeing people send their kids to sleepaway camp. Someone else took their kids to Miami for vacation. I do not like to judge other parent’s choices, I really don’t. In this case, it is not so much judging as it is wondering if maybe we ARE just way too paranoid. We are still super cautious with our non-vaccinated child.

    Obviously, keeping people alive is my top priority. Beyond that, I just feel like we keep finding new things out about covid 19 and it’s variants…like the long haul stuff. I don’t want to be responsible for my kid having long term breathing issues or whatever if they get this illness.

    But also, the industry I am took quite a hit during the pandemic, we produce conferences, so not being able to fly, go to hotels and congregate was a HUGE issue. We went virtual and had a terrible year, but stayed afloat. Co-workers were laid off, there were pay cuts etc. If lockdown were to occur again, the company could close at worst, but at best, MORE people would be laid off. It is extremely frustrating to see that this variant may put us all back where we started.

    • Anne Call says:

      We used to go to Paris and London every year for big cardio conferences, but since the pandemic my husband’s company has gotten all the info and data they needed online (medical data company). I wonder if some conference going will be scaled back permanently or things will be back to normal although not sure what is normal anymore. Hope for your company’s sake they do. I can relate to worrying about being paranoid. Our family has been super careful and I was pretty surprised at some of my friends behavior. I don’t think this thing is going away and we may be wearing masks for a long time like many Asian countries have been doing for many years. I’m definitely wearing masks when I go anywhere inside and I live in Santa Barbara which has great vaccination rates. I’m scared of Ms. Delta…