COVID-19 Variants

  • The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) of the virus that causes COVID-19 is now in Rhode Island.
  • The Delta variant is the most concerning variant we’ve seen because it spreads easily and more quickly than other variants and may cause more serious illness.
  • The Delta variant is affecting young people in a way previous variants have not.
  • Unvaccinated people are most at risk of getting and spreading the Delta variant.
  • Data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against most COVID-19 variants, including the Delta variant.
  • If you’re not yet fully vaccinated, 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.
  • Treatment with MABS can keep you from getting sicker from the Delta variant.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking the Delta variant very closely. In some regions, the Delta variant represents more than 50% of the cases reported. For details, see CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.
  • The Rhode Island Department of Health continues to monitor COVID-19 cases for the Delta variant. To follow variant tracking in Rhode Island, see RIDOH’s Variant page of the COVID-19 Data Tracker.

What We Know

  • 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 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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. The Rhode Island Department of Health 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 most 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

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

Rhode Island’s State Health Laboratories coordinates a “sequencing program” in partnership with the CDC and other laboratories. This means we are analyzing random samples of virus circulating in the state to identify differences between these samples and samples we have of the original virus. 

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

Resources