MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been well over a year since COVID-19 was detected in Minnesota. Although we know a lot more about the virus than we did last year and many have gotten their vaccinations, there’s still a lot of information to track as the Delta variant surges in the state and across the country.

So we’re asking an expert, Dr. George Morris of CentraCare, some important questions during this stage of the pandemic. Watch the video above or read his answers below.

How contagious is the Delta variant?

Delta… You could call it tougher, stronger, harsher or spreads more.

We had what you’d call traditional COVID, then there was an Alpha variant, a Beta variant, and now Delta. And that one is twice as powerful or twice as contagious as the alpha one, which was twice as contagious as the original. So now we’re up to, you know, four times as contagious as the first one. With that, it means that one person can probably spread to six or eight people, not just one-to-one, or one-to-two.

How has Delta impacted hospitalizations?

We have to think of COVID in the waves that we’ve had. We had the initial waves, we had the fall waves, you know, kind of November, December that was really long and hard and harsh. During that one, we probably had about 25% that were ICU. In the spring wave — kind of that March, April — we were up about a third of patients were ICU. And yeah, if what we’re seeing now is, you know, 40% to 50% of our patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID. That is (happening). That’s keeping our facilities busy.

Will vaccinated people need booster shots in the future?

The FDA is still looking at the booster data. That’ll be two things. One, is the timing of when you need the booster, –whether it’s nine months, 12 months after your first shot — or which subgroups, which populations may need it. And that’s probably where I think that things may lean initially, is people that are immunocompromised, are on chronic medications that suppress their immune system, or that are really elderly, that’s probably where we’re going to be focusing a lot of our efforts for the boosters.

What should people do to protect themselves from the variant?

I would maybe try to think about it in layers … three layers. Number one is our behavior, decrease your risk of social activities. Try and come back a little bit together, smaller groups, kind of safe spaces outdoors, be outside.

And the next would be, you know, the vaccine, that’s a great layer of protection.

But if those aren’t working, you need to add the masks as that third layer of protection to kind of help make it better for yourself. And remember, part of this is that we’re all in this together. If I can wear my mask, it protects me and protects you.

The three layers of protection. (credit: CBS)