Scientists concerned about Delta COVID variant as CA gears up for reopening

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One day away from California's reopening, scientists are concerned about a new coronavirus variant that is circulating the population. The Delta variant detected in India is believed to be responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases in that country.

"The Delta variant has several mutations in it that together have made much more transmissible from person to person and that is what we've seen happening in India the last several months. It may make people sicker than before," said Dr. Srivastava.

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Dr. Deepak Srivastava is the president of the Gladstone Institutes, a bio medical research organization. He, along with his colleagues, have noticed the impact the Delta variant is having in India where cases are surging, but the vaccination rate is low.

With at least 46% of California's population fully vaccinated and 43% of the entire country fully vaccinated, are we safe to reopen on Tuesday?

"It is safe to reopen in communities where there is a high rate of vaccination. People who are not vaccinated will be at risk of getting this Delta variant because it is spreading in the United States," said Dr. Srivastava.

The Delta variant makes up 6% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. In the Bay Area, Marin County detected at least seven cases of this variant in May.

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Dr. Richard Besser, a pediatrician and president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on the Delta COVID-19 variant and COVID-19 vaccine testing for kids 5-11.



"The main thing people can do is to get vaccinated. You give the virus less of a chance to mutate," said Dr. Nevan Krogan, director of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at the University of California San Francisco.

This week Dr. Krogan's team discovered ground breaking details about the U.K. variant that could help understand the Delta variant.

"What we discovered is that some of these other mutations are having an effect. Once the virus is in the cells, it's surprising the immune response," said Dr. Krogan.

RELATED: 2 vaccines in use will be effective against variant of COVID-19 identified in California, Duke finds

Luz Pena: "When we compare the U.K. variant and the Delta variant do we know which one of the two is most transmissible?"

Dr. Krogan: "We don't. More data needs to be collected."

Both experts agree that even though we are doing well in the U.S. and statewide, our focus needs to be on vaccinating the rest of the population at home and abroad fast.

"The big danger is that one of these days as the virus replicates around the world that there will be a variant that evades the vaccines that we have today. When that happens we have to start all over," said Dr. Srivastava.

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