The delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads more quickly than the original virus and has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. It is now the dominant variant in the U.S. But a meme has been circulating on Facebook falsely claiming the delta variant is “fake news.”
How lethal is COVID-19?
The delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first documented in India in October, is now the dominant variant in the U.S. It accounted for more than half of new infections for the two weeks ending July 3, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Viruses change over time and, as they mutate, they produce variants, which can develop more dangerous attributes. Four variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been called “notable” by the CDC, which is monitoring their growth across the country. The delta variant is among them.
This variant of the virus spreads more quickly and easily than the original, and it has been designated as a “variant of concern” by both the World Health Organization and a U.S. government SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group.
A variant that spreads more easily could lead to more cases of COVID-19, which could strain the health care system and, potentially, cause more deaths, according to the CDC.
“Where the delta variant is identified, it really rapidly takes off and spreads between people more efficiently than even the alpha variant,” WHO epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained in a recent interview.
So far, the delta variant has been detected in 98 countries, according to the WHO.
But a meme has been circulating on Facebook suggesting that the variant isn’t real or isn’t serious. It says, “The Delta Variant Is Fake News.”
That text is typed over a 2017 executive order that then-President Donald Trump signed to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After signing it, Trump held up the order and a photo of that moment has been used to make a host of similar memes.
The meme has garnered comments indicating that many believe the mutations of the virus that causes COVID-19 are political fabrications, as shown in this example: “They’re just getting us ready to lock us down again in 2022 so they can have a cheat fest again.”
But, as we said, the delta variant is a “variant of concern” and is now responsible for more than half of the new COVID-19 infections in the U.S.
It’s worth noting, too, that the currently available vaccines appear to be effective against the delta variant, but it’s important to get the full dosage of the vaccine if two shots are required, as is the case for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Also, the standard public health guidance that recommends physical distancing and wearing masks can help to control the spread of this variant.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
World Health Organization. Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants. Accessed 8 Jul 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker — Variant Proportions. Accessed 8 Jul 2021.
World Health Organization. Science in 5. Episode #45 – Delta variant. 5 Jul 2021.
United Nations. COVID-19 Delta variant detected in 98 countries, continues to evolve and mutate, warns WHO. 2 Jul 2021.
Trump, Donald. Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement. 23 Jan 2017.
C-SPAN. Executive Orders Signings. 23 Jan 2017.
Katella, Kathy. “5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant.” Yale Medicine. 7 Jul 2021.
Planas, Delphine, et al. “Reduced sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 variant Delta to antibody neutralization.” Nature. 8 Jul 2021.
McDonald, Jessica. “What Do the New Coronavirus Variants Mean for the Pandemic?” FactCheck.org. Updated 4 Feb 2021.