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3 doctors break down delta variants' threat in Florida

It's possible vaccinated people can transmit the virus and unvaccinated people are more likely for severe disease.
Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. — COVID-19 guidelines are changing due to changes in the virus and we want to give you the facts. 10 Tampa Bay heard from three epidemiologists about what you need to know about the delta variant, whether you're vaccinated or not.

The CDC now recommends wearing a mask indoors in areas with high transmission, including the entire state of Florida.

"This is a game-changer because it spreads so rapidly and because people who are vaccinated can actually carry it," said Dr. Jill Roberts, an epidemiologist with the University of South Florida.

While there was always the threat of breakthrough cases, new data shows asymptomatic, vaccinated people could be transmitting the delta variant.

RELATED: CDC document warns delta variant appears to be as contagious as chickenpox

"There's a greater risk that you'll have a mild case, great, but that you're also silently spreading it and that's why it's important to wear the mask," said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists.

When it comes to unvaccinated people, delta is different. With the initial COVID-19 variant we were dealing with last summer, one infected person was estimated to infect one or two others. With delta, scientists estimate one person will infect six to eight other people.

"The delta variant has increased risk of hospitalization and severe outcomes," said Dr. Roberts.

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

Experts are sounding the alarm because the viral load is 1,000 times higher than the original COVID variant. A higher viral load means it's a more powerful attack on the body and it's more transmissible.

"Every breath you make, the concentration is higher," explained Dr. Feigl-Ding.

Right now experts say the best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get vaccinated wear a mask indoors.

"It’s a much worse virus for us to deal with than what we saw March of last year," said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist at USF.

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