Is The Delta Variant More Likely To Land You In The Hospital?

The delta variant brought a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations right as some health care professionals were starting to rejoice at empty COVID-19 wards (via Twitter). In terms of hospitalizations, the United States is now back to where it was in early December 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How could this be?

We have known for a while that delta is much more contagious than earlier strains of the virus (per CDC). This certainly plays a role in the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.

As for whether or not the delta variant is more likely to land you in the hospital, the data has been conflicting (per Yale Medicine), but on August 27th, The Lancet released the largest study on this topic to date. The study suggests that patients with the delta variant may indeed be more likely to end up in the hospital than people with other strains.

The delta variant may be twice as likely to land you in the hospital

At first glance, the hospitalization rates of the alpha and delta variants were comparable at 2.2% and 2.3% respectively, but once the researchers adjusted for factors such as sex and age, they found that unvaccinated people are twice as likely to end up in the hospital if they contract the delta variant instead of the alpha variant (per The Lancet). Unfortunately, the delta variant is now the primary strain of COVID-19 circulating in the United States (per CDC).

The good news is that the fully vaccinated participants comprised only a slim minority of patients who ended up in the hospital. This is consistent with other research that suggests breakthrough cases and especially hospitalizations remain rare in the United States (per Healthline), so the one silver lining is that even if the delta variant is more dangerous than the alpha variant, we still have an effective way to protect ourselves from the worst.