Speed Reads

Vaccination Nation

The Delta variant has hit Israel, but health officials have reason to be optimistic

Israel, where about 57 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, is seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. "Dozens of new cases recently emerged at schools in two cities, Modiin and Binyamina, leading to hundreds of people being quarantined," The New York Times reports. "Israel has made 12- to 15-year-olds eligible for vaccination, but many have yet to get shots." Some Israeli health officials and experts blamed the uptick in cases on the more transmissible Delta variant that has swept through India and Britain, and the country reimposed an indoor mask mandate on Friday, two weeks after it was lifted. 

"Despite the new outbreak, the country's current death rate remains close to zero," the Times notes, and while the seven-day average of new cases has risen to more than 72, from 25 last Saturday, the Israeli health ministry says only 26 of 729 active COVID-10 patients are hospitalized. Ran Balicer, an epidemiologist at Israeli health care organization Clalit, said he expects the high vaccination rate — especially among older Israelis — to keep the number of deaths and severe cases low.

The outbreak appears to have spread beyond Modiin and Binyamina, but "my guess is that we will not see a fourth wave," Israeli coronavirus czar Dr. Nachman Ash told Haaretz on Friday. The number of active cases is doubling every few days, he added, but "the rate is high because there are relatively few cases. As more cases are found, we don't expect it to continue at this [exponential] rate."