COVID-19 Variants

The Delta Variant

What We Know

  • Most COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island are now the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) of the virus.
  • The Delta variant is much more aggressive than other variants we’ve seen because it spreads more easily and more quickly and may cause more serious illness among people of all ages, including young people.
  • Some vaccinated people can get the Delta variant of COVID-19, but most hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated.

What We Can Do

  • Data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines help protect you against the Delta variant.
    • Unvaccinated people are most at risk of getting and spreading the Delta variant.
    • Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and weekly testing are more important than ever to stop the variant from spreading and to protect the progress we’ve made.
    • Vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the Delta variant. Find a vaccine near you at
  • Whether or not you’re fully vaccinated, get tested right away if you get symptoms of COVID-19, even if you think it’s just a cold or allergies.
  • Treatment with MABS can keep you from getting sicker from the Delta variant.
    • Monoclonal antibody (MABS) treatment is a doctor-recommended treatment for people age 12 or older who test positive for COVID-19. It's fast, easy, and highly effective. It also helps keep you from getting sicker and being hospitalized. Learn more at

Print and share our Delta variant flyer, a printable version of this information.

What We Know About Variants

  • Viruses change all the time—this is normal and expected. These changes can happen when a virus moves from person to person. When a virus changes, the new version is called a variant. There are multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists and health and medical experts are studying these variants to understand how changes to the virus affect how it spreads and how it infects people. To better understand what variants are, how they form, and how they spread, listen to this episode of Public Health Out Loud.
  • Variants are found all over the world. The CDC is keeping track of these variants and posts updates to a web page about COVID-19 variants.
  • Some variants spread more easily and quickly than other variants. This means they can cause more cases of COVID-19, which can lead to more hospitalizations and more deaths. Some variants may also impact our treatments, vaccines, and tests. We call these “variants of concern.”
  • COVID-19 variants of concern are now dominant in Rhode Island. RIDOH is monitoring these variants and posting data on the COVID-19 Data Tracker.
  • Data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against all current COVID-19 variants.
  • We can all help prevent these variants from spreading by following basic guidance to protect your household. This helps Rhode Island’s families, businesses, and economy. Continue to wear your mask, watch your distance, follow quarantine and isolation requirements, get tested often, and get vaccinated when it’s available to you.

What We Don’t Know About Variants

Scientists are working to learn more about these variants, and more studies are needed to understand:

  • How widely these variants have spread
  • Whether these variants cause milder or more severe disease in people
  • How these variants may affect current treatments, vaccines, and tests

What Rhode Island is Doing

RIDOH State Health Laboratories coordinate the SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance program in partnership with the CDC and clinical and academic laboratories. This means we are sequencing and analyzing a representative selection of samples of the virus circulating in the state to identify differences between these samples and the genetic material of the original virus. 

We are sharing the results of these analyses on the Variant page of the COVID-19 Data Tracker.