With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths steadily decreasing in the U.S., many of us are literally breathing a sigh of relief, but are we taking that welcome breath of fresh air too soon?
Mid-October reports indicate that the United States has reached its lowest level of COVID-19 cases since April, with a daily average of 37,650, which is down 19% from reports just two weeks prior. The daily average hospitalization rate in the United States is down 5 percent to about 26,500 and the daily average deaths reported due to COVID in the United States has decreased 8% to approximately 375 within the same time period. That’s all good news indicating that we are heading in the right direction, right?
Yes, but some experts warn that we shouldn’t take that deep, relaxing breath just yet. The numbers of positive COVID-19 cases are actually higher than reports indicate since many are testing at home or avoiding testing for COVID-19 altogether. Chief Medical Advisor to the United States President and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the United States Institute of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci says that the low number of vaccinations due to that sense that the pandemic no longer poses a major threat and is essentially over is actually problematic. He adds that COVID-19 could easily be mitigated if more people were vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures indicate that 226.2 million people in the United States (approximately 68% of our total population) have received their primary vaccinations. Of the 25.6 million of those who are eligible to receive a second booster have had one, which is about 39% of those who had their first booster. So far, approximately 15 million of the 209 million eligible have received the latest boosters authorized by the Food & Drug Administration in late August.
According to data collected at Johns Hopkins University, on a global scale, there are 624.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a death toll of over 6.56 million. The United States leads the world with a reported 96.9 million cases of COVID-19 and 1065,118 fatalities. With cold weather on the rise, a new wave of cases and increased hospitalizations are expected.
The CDC has identified new COVID variants accounting for over 11% of new cases in the week ending October 15th. First identified in the United Kingdom and Germany, these COVID variants – BQ1 and its descendant, BQ1.1 – were originally grouped in the BA5 omicron sub variant category because their numbers were so small.
So how bad is it and what’s being done? Currently, New York and New Jersey report the highest infection rate of the newest COVID variants, which accounts for about 20% of overall cases there. CBS News reported that Dr. Fauci is confident that Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech will be able to update boosters targeting these new variants.
Additionally, with increased understanding of COVID-19 and better prevention and treatment methods available to help reduce the severity of COVID-19 effects, the CDC agrees that we are in a much better place with respect to the virus. In support of those facts, the CDC’s updated guidelines as of August 2022 include the recommendation that instead of quarantining, those having been exposed to COVID-19 can wear a high quality mask for ten days and submit to testing on day five. If you have COVID-19, you should follow the full isolation recommendations, staying at home for at least five days when you are most likely to be infectious and wearing a high quality mask around others in the home. Once your results are negative, you may end your isolation. You may also end isolation measures if you are fever-free for 24 hours without medication after 5 days. However, you should avoid anyone who is likely to become very sick until day 11. If you have a weakened immune system and contract COVID-19, you should consult your doctor before ending isolation. Anyone who once again begins to experience symptoms should restart their recommended isolation requirements. Testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures is no longer recommended. Although there are no longer protocols in place for social distancing, the CDC also suggests that due to the importance of physical distance in the prevention of COVID-19, it is important to people to consider their risks in a particular setting, including ventilation and crowd size.
Other COVID-19 news includes the fact that vaccine supplies provided by the Vaccine Alliance have canceled remaining orders for providing to low- and middle-income countries due to “sufficient supplies”. Additionally, The World Health Organization, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Environmental Program and the World Organization for Animal Health are working together to improve the prediction, prevention, detection and response to health threats to humans, animals and plants.
We have also learned more about COVID-19 long-haulers – the people who experience long-term effects caused by COVID-19. The long-term effects of COVID-19 can last weeks, months or longer; they can be ongoing, recurring or new symptoms; and they can include a wide array of health conditions including those involving the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin. As a result, according to the CDC, people who have had COVID-19 may be more likely to develop diabetes, heart issues and neurological conditions.
Diagnosis of long-term COVID can be problematic as sufferers experience a wide range, some of which may actually originate from existing health issues. These may include fever, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, increased heart rate, headache, body aches, problems sleeping or concentrating, lightheadedness, tingling, loss of smell or taste, anxiety or depression, stomach issues, rashes and changes in menstrual cycles.
Researchers are currently working diligently to gain a better understanding of who is more likely to develop long-term COVID and why. Per the CDC, what we know now is that groups of people who might be more at risk of developing long-term COVID may include those who have suffered more severely, those with underlying health issues and those who have not been vaccinated.