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The Delta variant is spreading in the US, but the WHO, CDC and local governments have put out conflicting mask-wearing guidance. Here's what we know. USA TODAY

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The highly infectious COVID-19 delta variant is now the dominant strain in New Jersey, according to state data released on Monday. 

That variant, which has ravaged India and become the most common strain among COVID-19 infections in the U.S., overtook the alpha variant, which was first reported in England.

A report on all variants in New Jersey as of June 26 shows that the delta variant is now responsible for 40.7% of all positive cases, with the alpha strain dropping to 30.6%.

The previous report, using data ending a week before, showed the delta variant responsible for 26.8% of cases, compared with the alpha variant's 40% prevalence.

"Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated," state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at Gov. Phil Murphy's Monday afternoon press conference, adding that "available vaccines are effective against the delta variant, preventing serious disease and hospitalization."

In May, a study from Public Health England showed that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 88% effective at preventing symptomatic disease from the delta variant and even more effective at preventing hospitalization or death.

But that number drops to 33% efficacy for those with only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

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A study out of Israel showed that the vaccine was less effective, but health officials said it still made a significant difference against all strains.

Pfizer touted the use of a booster shot against the new variant earlier this month, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said a third dose of the vaccine is not yet necessary.

Moderna announced that its vaccine was also effective against the delta variant, but did not specify an efficacy rate.

On July 6, the CDC classified the delta, alpha, beta and gamma variants as "variants of concern," which is more severe than a "variant of interest" but less so than a "variant of high consequence."

At the time, the agency said no variants of high consequence had been found in the U.S.

However, Persichilli described the delta variant as "highly transmissible" and the "fastest growing" among all types of the coronavirus.

The variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first detected in India in December and has spread to at least 80 countries. Although it spreads more easily, research is still being conducted to determine whether it is more deadly to the unvaccinated than other strains.

State data on the distribution of variants is culled from test results reported by LabCorp, Aegis Sciences Corporation, Infinity Biologix and Quest Diagnostics and the state public health lab.

Nicholas Katzban is a breaking news reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

Email: katzban@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @nicholaskatzban 

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