‘People aren’t taking it seriously’: Experts say further spread of COVID in the US is too risky | Corona Virus

IIn the fourth year of the pandemic, Covid-19 is once again spreading across America and driven by the recent holidays, lack of precautions and the constant evolution of the Omicron sub-variants of the virus.

New sub-variants cause concern about increased transmissibility and ability to Avoid some antibodiesBut the same tools continue to limit the spread of Covid, the experts said, especially divalent boosters, masks, ventilation, antiviral drugs and other precautions.

Uptake of the booster was “pathetic,” said Neil Segal, assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Antivirals absorbed LittleAnd a handful of mask, vaccination and testing mandates have resumed in the face of the winter wave, which is once again stressing health systems.

New Covid hospitalizations are now at the fourth highest rate of the pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of Covid hospitalizations dropped somewhat after the summer wave, but never fell to the low levels seen after previous spikes, persisting through the fall and picking up again with the winter break.

“Hospitals are at capacity,” Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, said of the current rates for his region. “I’m not sure what the trajectory of this thing is, but I’m concerned.”

The majority of Covid hospital admissions are among those aged 65 or older, although the proportion is for children under the age of four almost doubled in 2022.

In the past week, covid deaths rose up 44%, from 2,705 in the week ending Jan. 4 to 3,907 in the week ending Jan. 11.

This is one of the greatest cases of Covid in the entire pandemic, according to the Wastewater analyses from the virus. It’s much lower than the January 2022 peak, but similar to the summer 2022 rush, which was the second largest increase.

This has not been done yet. “It certainly doesn’t look like we’ve peaked yet,” Segal said.

Omicron BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 sub-variants as well as rapidly expanding XBB.1.5 make up the majority of cases, according to the CDC estimates. The northeast, where more than 80% of cases of the XBB.1.5 sub-variant are estimated to have the highest proportion of cases, according to wastewater data.

“With XBB, there’s such a huge transmission advantage that exposure is really risky — it’s riskier now than it’s ever been,” Sehgal said in terms of transmissibility, Sehgal said.

The official case was charged slower to riseBecause of the prevalence of at-home testing and because of a general reluctance to get tested at all, experts say. Among the tests reported, positivity rates were very high, with about one in six tests (16%) affirmative.

Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that despite high rates of Covid spread, hospitalizations have not yet reached the previous peak seen earlier in the pandemic, possibly due to immunity from vaccines and cases. previous. .

But he said such protections should not be taken for granted, particularly because immunity is waning.

Nurses administer Covid-19 tests to members of the public at a testing site in Washington, DC.
Nurses administer Covid-19 tests to members of the public at a testing site in Washington, DC. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA

“The reinforcements really make a difference,” he said. “The severe cases that we’re seeing are probably at least somewhat avoidable, if people make sure they keep up with vaccination, because that’s still the safest way to gain immunity.”

Boosters, especially the updated bivalent boosters, are highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease and death. after only 15.4% of Americans over the age of five received the new reinforcements.

“You’re fighting a lot of misinformation and also some political mistakes when it comes to vaccines,” Williams said. When Joe Biden announce The pandemic “over” in September, he said, may have dampened public enthusiasm for the new supporter and prompted Congress to further inaction on more funding to address the pandemic.

“It’s hard to channel this parallel narrative that you shouldn’t worry about Covid but also have a chance,” Sehgal said, calling the announcement “another unforced error.”

While vaccinations are very important, other precautions also help prevent infection, disease, and death, Segal said — and are especially important during a surge like this. He added that due to bad messages from officials, many people may not realize that the United States is experiencing a boom and that precautions are still necessary.

“I think the majority of people who don’t wear masks today, don’t know that they should.”

Experts said that even if the US gets to the point where sharp increases do not lead to a corresponding increase in hospitalizations and deaths, it will still increase the number of people infected and disabled by long-term Covid.

“There is accumulating data that recurrent Covid accumulates risks of short- and long-term complications, including cardiovascular disease, mental health, and other problems,” Ray said. “We will only know later exactly how big this cost is. But evolving data suggests that there is an increasing cost as infections accumulate.”

Williams worries that hospitals are reaching capacity even as long-term care facilities see outbreaks of disease among residents and staff, after years of worker shortages.

“In New Hampshire, nursing homes will not accept those who feel they cannot provide care for them, which I think is admirable, but the result is that hospitals are overwhelmed,” he said. Hospitals that may release patients to care facilities for transitional or long-term care will see beds full for longer, adding pressure to hospitals, patients and health workers.

“It’s a continuum, but right now that chain is broken,” said Williams.

Health workers suffered three years of burnout, disability, and death, and some were forced out of the workforce. Others have been alarmed by unsafe working conditions and the continuing crises caused by the pandemic. Nurses in new york reached a tentative agreement This week after striking for safer working conditions.

Joe Biden received the booster vaccine in public, but he may be undermining the message by declaring a pandemic
Joe Biden received the booster vaccine in public, but he may be undermining the message by declaring that the pandemic is “over.” Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Nursing homes and residential care facilities have about 300,000 fewer workers today than they did in March 2020, Williams said. “It’s hard to see how that will improve,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, Covid continues to spread, as nursing home residents and staff see nobody greater heights in epidemic situations.

“The number one key to keeping people healthy in nursing homes is keeping people healthy in the community,” Williams said. But “people don’t seem to be wearing masks and consoling — people aren’t taking any of this seriously. We just seem to be declaring that when it comes to Covid deaths, we’re number one, and that’s a title we wouldn’t give up to any other country.”

Sehgal calls it the “collective forgetting” about how and why we need to protect ourselves and each other. “There are people whose mild infections are actually not very mild, either because of their underlying health, or because of social factors in their lives,” he said. “It’s just a massive self-inflicted wound.”

And the greater the spread of the virus, the greater the chances of its development, and the possibility of catching mutations that make it easier to overcome immunity.

However, the same measures that helped curb earlier spikes still work today. And they not only prevent disease and death — they also reduce social disruptions, such as hours lost at work and school. “These are steps we can take to protect ourselves and protect others — they don’t seem stressful in the face of a COVID infection,” Segal said.

As Ray puts it: “When we can all be wearing a mask, why not?”

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