UW modelers: Delta variant could start ‘running out of people to infect’ by end of year

Aug 24, 2021, 7:48 AM | Updated: 11:14 am
Seattle, vaccination site...
A walk-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of SEA Mayor's Office/Twitter)
(Photo courtesy of SEA Mayor's Office/Twitter)

The latest modeling from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicates that the delta variant could have COVID-19 cases increasing well into fall of 2021, before dipping in the final month of the year.

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That’s largely driven by estimates surrounding the transmissibility of the highly infectious delta variant, which now makes up nearly all new cases in Washington, according to state health officials.

In cities like Tacoma and Seattle, COVID cases are now at the highest they’ve ever been over the course of the pandemic, with hospitalizations quickly increasing in kind. Tacoma health officials also warned this week that they are seeing “high rates of serious illness.”

The silver lining to that, though, is that with vaccinations slowly ticking up, the delta variant may eventually burn itself out.

“COVID-19 in many places is running out of people to infect,” the IHME’s Dr. Ali Mokdad told KIRO 7 TV.

No Washington schools would reopen in person under late-2020 threshold

That’s the primary factor driving predictions of a possible late-2021 decline in cases. That said, concerns remain in the near-term, particularly when it comes to the chance of reinfection from the delta variant in those who had COVID earlier on in the pandemic.

“We’ve re-estimated the combinations of cross-variant immunity, as well as transmissibility as compared to the (original) variants,” IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray described on Twitter. “That analysis has led us to lower cross-variant immunity down to about 50% on average.”

For the time being, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated, wear masks in public settings, and avoid large indoor gatherings whenever possible. A statewide indoor mask mandate went into effect Monday, while Washington educators and school staff are required to be fully vaccinated by mid-October as students return to classrooms in person.

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UW modelers: Delta variant could start ‘running out of people to infect’ by end of year