U.Md. doctor on how to keep the delta variant at bay

With new data coming out about the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland is offering advice on how best to protect you and your family.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks again indoors in parts of the country that are seeing high or substantial transmission of COVID-19.

Andrea Berry, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, thinks Americans should take even more precautions.

“People who are vaccinated where the transmission is not substantial or high I think should strongly consider resuming mask-wearing, especially if they’re having contact with people with compromised immune systems or other people who are unvaccinated. That’s what I’ve chosen to do,” she said.

Asked if folks should wear higher quality masks this time around, such as N95 masks, Berry said no.

“So far there’s not a recommendation to go higher than the cloth mask or the surgical mask,” she said.

It’s not clear yet if COVID-19 will eventually become a seasonal virus, but Berry noted an interesting change in the spread of a different virus.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, usually peaks between October and March. This year, it appears to be peaking now. Berry said the delay is because of all the physical distancing we had in place in late 2020 and early 2021.

With schools getting ready to reopen for the new academic year, Berry hopes they’ll take a multifaceted approach to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think that what schools need to do is have as many different layers of mitigation that are possible,” she said.

Testing symptomatic kids for the coronavirus is crucial, she said, and testing those without symptoms would be “a step above.”

The Pfizer vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for use in people as young as 12, and no vaccines have been approved yet for kids younger than that. But the University of Maryland is currently doing pediatric studies of the Novavax and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’re looking for the dose that gives a great immune response with the least amount … of things like fever and body aches and pain and things like that,” Berry said.

Pfizer is also working on a COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 5 to 11, and hopes to request emergency authorization in September or October. Berry said the pediatric trial of the Moderna vaccine will take a little longer.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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