MeIn its fourth year of the pandemic, Covid-19 is once again sweeping across America, driven by recent vacations, reduced precautions, and continued evolution of the Omicron subspecies of the virus.
New subvariants raise concerns about increased infectivity and capacity. avoid some antibodiesbut the same tools, particularly bivalent boosters, masks, ventilation, antivirals and other precautions, continue to curb the spread of Covid, experts say.
But booster ingestion is “pathetic,” said Neil Sagal, assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. lowand few mandates on masking, vaccination, and testing have resumed in the face of a winter surge, which is again putting pressure on the health care system.
New Covid hospital admissions are now the fourth highest rate of the pandemic. according to to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Covid-related hospitalizations declined somewhat after the summer wave, but did not drop to the low levels seen after the previous surge, persisting into the fall and rising again during the winter holidays.
Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, said of current rates in his area, “Hospitals are reaching maximum capacity.” I don’t know if it will be a good trajectory, but I’m worried.”
The majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations are for people over the age of 65, but the proportion of children under the age of 4 is about twice 2022.
Covid deaths in the past week Rose A 44% increase from 2,705 in the week ending January 4th to 3,907 in the week ending January 11th.
It’s one of the biggest spikes in Covid cases in the entire pandemic, according to. Wastewater analysis of virus. This is much lower than his January 2022 peak, but similar to his Summer 2022 surge, which was the second largest.
And it’s not over yet. “It certainly doesn’t look like it’s peaked yet,” says Sehgal.
According to the CDC, Omicron variants BQ.1.1 and BQ.1, as well as the rapidly spreading XBB.1.5, account for the majority of cases. EstimateWastewater data show the highest proportion of cases in the Northeast, where more than 80% of cases are estimated to be from the XBB.1.5 subvariant.
“XBB has very significant contagious benefits, so exposure is very dangerous. It is now more risky than ever,” said Sehgal in terms of infection rates. .
The official number of cases is slow to riseExperts say this is due to the prevalence of home testing and the general reluctance to do so. However, among the reported tests, the positive rate is very high, about 1 in 6 tests (16%) has turned positive.
Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said despite the high prevalence of Covid, hospitalizations are likely to be part of the pandemic, possibly due to vaccination and immunity from previous cases. He said it had not yet reached the earlier peaks seen earlier. .
However, he said that protection should not be taken for granted, especially since immunity is weakened.
“Boosters really make a difference,” he said. “The severe cases we are seeing are probably avoidable, at least to some extent, if we make sure people are kept up-to-date on vaccinations, because it is still the safest way to get immunity. Because it’s a method.”
Boosters, especially modern bivalent boosters, are very effective in reducing the risk of serious illness and death.yet 15.4% of Americans age 5 and older received a new booster.
“We’re just fighting a lot of misinformation and some political missteps when it comes to vaccines,” Williams said. Declared The pandemic was “finished” in September, he said. That likely stalled public enthusiasm for the new booster and spurred further Congressional inaction on more funding to combat the pandemic.
“It’s hard to follow the parallel that people shouldn’t worry about Covid and should go get vaccinated,” Sehgal called the declaration “another unforced error.”
Vaccines are very important, but other preventative measures also help prevent infection, illness and death, which is especially important during surges like this, Sehgal said. Because of this, many people may not be aware of the surge in the U.S., and precautions are still needed, he added.
“I think most people today who aren’t wearing masks just don’t know they should.”
Experts say even if the U.S. responds to the surge and reaches levels where hospitalizations and deaths don’t rise, the number of people sick and disabled by the long-running novel coronavirus will still rise.
“There is accumulating data that repeatedly shows that Covid builds risk for both short-term and long-term complications, including cardiovascular, mental health and other problems,” Ray said. Bigger or bigger will only be known in retrospect, but evolving data suggests that costs will rise as infections accumulate.”
After years of worker shortages, Williams is concerned that hospitals are reaching capacity despite outbreaks among residents and staff at long-term care facilities. .
“In New Hampshire, nursing homes don’t accept people who feel they don’t have staff to care for them, which I think is great, but hospitals are overcrowded as a result,” he said. Hospitals that may release patients to care facilities for temporary or long-term care experience longer bed-fill times, putting even greater pressure on hospitals, patients, and health care workers. increase.
“It’s a continuum, but now the continuum is broken,” Williams said.
For three years, healthcare workers experienced burnout, disability, death, and some were forced to retire. Some are unsettled by unsafe working conditions and the ongoing crisis caused by the pandemic.new york nurse provisional contract After going on strike this week for safer working conditions.
There are about 300,000 fewer workers in nursing homes and residential care homes than in March 2020, Williams said. “It’s hard to understand how it gets better,” he said.
Meanwhile, Covid continues to spread, and nursing home residents and staff are seeing one of them. maximum climb for a pandemic.
“The first key to keeping people healthy in nursing homes is keeping people in the community healthy,” Williams said. But “it doesn’t look like people are wearing masks and being boosted. People aren’t taking this seriously. When it comes to Covid mortality, we’re number one and it’s the other It seems that he has declared that he has no intention of handing over to the country.”
Segal calls it a “collective oblivion” about how and why we need to protect ourselves and each other. “There are people whose mild infections are not really that mild because of underlying health conditions or because of social factors in their lives,” he said. It is an act of injury.”
And the more the virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to evolve and potentially pick up mutations that make it easier to overcome immunity.
Still, the same measures that helped curb previous surges are still in effect today. It not only prevents illness and death, but also minimizes social disruptions such as lost time at work and school. “These measures that we can take to protect ourselves and protect others do not appear to be onerous in the face of Covid infection,” Sehgal said.
As Ray put it, “Why don’t you wear a mask when you can?”