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Aug. 12, 2021, 8:51 a.m. EDT

This viral meme shows just how worried people are about the delta variant of coronavirus

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce

As folks start looking forward to sweater weather, some fear that the more contagious COVID variants could unravel their best-laid fall plans. 

The delta variant in particular has become a cause for concern. This week, the highly transmissible variant drove the daily average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. above 100,000 for the first time since February . And there are reports of hospitals running out of intensive care unit beds again in states including Texas and Louisiana, echoing the strain that the coronavirus pandemic put on health care systems last year.

The delta variant has spread to 135 countries, according to the World Health Organization, and health experts are warning that 85% to 90% of the population will need to be immune to the virus for herd immunity to ever take hold. That’s higher than earlier estimates that had suggested  50%60%  or  70% to 85%  for earlier strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As of Wednesday, only   58.2%  of qualified people in the U.S. (those ages 12 and up) were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, although the number of Americans getting their shots has been increasing again. 

So, many people on social media are responding with gallows humor. And one twisted meme in particular has captured Twitter’s attention. 

It involves putting two pictures side-by-side, often from a popular movie or pop culture reference. The first image represents something hopeful or something that the poster is excited about — representing the “fall plans” — which is placed next to a contrasting photo that illustrates how the delta variant is ready to destroy those plans.

For example, under “my fall plans,” one post puts a picture of the romantic leads in the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” embracing on the deck of the ship — while “the delta variant” captions an image of the iceberg that will inevitably sink the ship and send hundreds to their deaths. 

Another popular example racking up hundreds of Twitter “likes” shows the adorable tween main characters of the 1991 film “My Girl” as the “fall plans” juxtaposed with a shot of bees as “the delta variant” — since bee stings killed one of the main characters in the coming-of-age flick. 

Here’s a few more: 

This led “the delta variant” to trend on Twitter on Wednesday morning. 

The contagious variant has already been raining on some companies’ summer plans. Southwest Airlines /zigman2/quotes/201071949/composite LUV -1.95% warned on Wednesday that the delta variant is slowing down bookings and driving up cancellations in August, which means it is unlikely to be profitable in the third quarter. The variant is also hanging over the heads of businesses such as Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -3.99% and Airbnb /zigman2/quotes/222990650/composite ABNB -8.06% , who are set to report their quarterly results on Thursday, as a variable impacting their pandemic recovery. Earlier this week, Goldman Sachs cut its 2021 China economic growth forecast due to the fast spread of the highly contagious delta variant.  

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