COVID-19 Variants: Staying Protected for the Long Haul


Coronavirus Cells New Strain

Since early in the pandemic, we’ve been tracking the spread of COVID-19 variants in Washington. In recent weeks, variants — particularly the delta variant — have received a lot of attention nationwide. The variants now make up most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and they’re spreading fast — especially among those who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

We know you might have questions about staying protected, especially since the state’s recent reopening. Here’s what you should know about protecting yourself and your loved ones.

What are variants?

Viruses are constantly changing. Similarly, the virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly adapting to new environments. Most of these changes don’t affect us. But, some of the changes that happen can completely change a virus’s characteristics. Sometimes, these changes result in increased transmission, hospitalizations, and death. When that happens, it’s deemed a “variant of concern.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH are tracking four variants of concern and six variants of interest. Variants of interest are those we are watching but are not yet variants of concern.

Which COVID-19 variants should I watch out for?

Variants of the COVID-19 virus have been found here in Washington state and throughout the world.

Currently, there’s a lot of media coverage about the highly contagious delta variant. The delta variant is spreading fast nationwide, and it’s already here in Washington. The variant is responsible for over 75% of all the sequenced specimens in Washington, and it’s rising significantly. It’s expected to become the primary COVID-19 strain around the world. While the delta variant’s high infection rates are concerning, studies still need to determine if it has a higher rate of hospitalization or death.

There are also other variants of concern that are spreading in Washington state, including the gamma variant. This variant is concerning because it causes higher rates of hospitalization.

Even people who are fully vaccinated can still be infected by some of these highly infectious variants. However, vaccinated people are better equipped with antibodies and are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. So far, all three vaccines available in the U.S. are effective at preventing severe illness among all the current variants of concern.

Interested in tracking Washington’s variants? This document contains the most current information about variants in our state. It’s updated every Wednesday.

How can I stay protected?

Viruses mutate whenever they spread from one person to another. The most prevalent variants in Washington are highly contagious, so we must protect ourselves. Here are some things to remember:

  • The best way to stop mutations from creating new variants is to stop the spread of COVID-19. The best way to do that is to get vaccinated. Vaccines help reduce the severity of the variants and minimize the number of hospitalizations and deaths. And, since viruses mutate every time they spread from one person to the next, vaccinations can stop other variants from ever emerging.
  • Be diligent with the four W’s — especially if you’re unvaccinated: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and get WA Notify, a free, anonymous COVID-19 exposure alert for your smartphone.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and away from others, except to get tested and receive medical care. When you get tested, go directly home and isolate until you receive your results.
  • It is critical that you get both doses of the two-dose vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) for full protection. If you’ve only had one dose, get the second one, even if it’s been more than four weeks since the first one. You don’t need to start over.

Even though COVID-19 variants are on the rise, we can still continue to enjoy our day-to-day activities if we take some simple precautions. Yes, this requires wearing masks, washing our hands, and being mindful about social distancing — for a little while longer. But it’s better than the alternative. And remember, the single best thing you can do to help defeat these variants and put an end COVID-19 is to get vaccinated! If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?

More information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

Check the state’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date and reliable info at

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 12 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment.

The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today:

Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state may be found at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.



Washington State Department of Health
Public Health Connection

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.