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The case of COVID-19 is on the rise again The United States sees an average of more than 100,000 new cases reported nationwide each day. This is almost double the rate a month ago and four times more than this time last year.
And the actual number of cases is probably much higher than that, according to health officials. Because many people now rely on indoor and outdoor testing, “we are clearly reducing the number of infections,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters at a recent COVID press briefing. The trend of hospital admissions is also on the rise, though slowly in most places.
Yet in most places, health officials have not called for any new COVID restrictions. So how big a wave, really? And should you do something about it?
Measure the actual number of infections
The official undercounting of the case is not exactly a new issue. At the onset of the epidemic, many cases could not be detected because tests were unreliable and supplies were limited.
Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University, said, “We saw in March 2020 – early – that one in 10 people, probably one in 12, had been infected,” said Jeffrey Shaman, whose lab worked to model the actual number of infections.
A very preliminary research effort to find out how many people became infected in the community involved testing resident samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. That method didn’t work as the epidemic progressed, Shaman explained, because antibodies decrease over time after infection and because vaccines complicate the antibody picture.
Shaman’s research group has focused on using models to estimate “confirmation rates” – part of the actual transmission that is being captured in official case calculations. These rates have fluctuated – by the end of 2020, they estimate that one in four cases is being counted. It was close to one in six when Omicron grew.
Now with the advent of rapid testing at home that is not reported to health departments, Shaman thinks the actual number at the ballpark could be eight times higher than the number of cases. In other words, instead of 100,000 new cases per day, the actual number could be 800,000 cases per day.
Take that guess with a huge grain of salt, he advises. Getting a firm handle on the current confirmation rate is getting harder.
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Wastewater monitoring sites across the country reinforce the notion that the virus is on the rise. More than half of the sites have seen a “slight increase” in virus levels, according to the CDC, although the system does not cover the entire country and is not yet set up to provide an ongoing estimate of the actual number of cases outside the official count. .
All of this is a predictable consequence of simple, ubiquitous home testing, says Gigi Gronval, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“People have that information at their fingertips to be able to get the results they need so they can work on it immediately – it’s absolutely valuable,” he says. But it also comes at the cost of data, “and so you have to assume that there are more cases than reports.”
The next wave could be even worse
As an epidemiologist, this uncertainty is not ideal, says Caitlin Jatelina, associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, who wrote the newsletter for your local epidemiologist. And even if the case count is much higher than their attendance, the healthcare crisis may not be as high this summer as it was earlier, he said.
As the weather warms up and people spend more time outdoors, “infections are much less likely to be caused by outside ventilation,” he says. Also, after a massive wave of infections from the Omicron variant, he says, “we have such a high level of infection-induced immunity that we have a very high immunity wall,” some CDCOs have speculated. Basically, if someone has a recent infection, they are less likely to be re-infected, so the virus does not spread as much or make people sick.
One of the reasons for the country’s current population-level immunity is that it makes sense for policymakers to refrain from introducing mitigation measures for the time being, says Mackiez Bonnie, a professor of biology at the Center for Infectious Diseases Dynamics in Penn State.
“It simply came to our notice then [and] The political capital that we want to save when we really need it, “he said.
He predicts that more dangerous waves are coming in autumn and winter. That’s when he thinks health officials should start ramping up “a set of new measures that will probably be needed to reduce the number of cases,” he explained.
Jatelina agrees that the country is unlikely to take big steps at the moment. “I don’t see a change in policy until another omikron-like event or a massive mutation of the virus,” he says.
Find out what’s going on with the virus wherever you are
While public health officials are not raising concerns about the rise in cases, health researchers agree that the current, partially invisible wave of certain people should be noted: older people who have not recently been vaccinated or increased.
“It’s a low hanging fruit here,” Jatelina said. “Just get the vaccine. Go get your booster. Don’t worry too much about it.” About one-third of people over the age of 65 who are eligible for a booster have not received one according to the CDC’s Vaccine Tracker – despite clear evidence it reduces the risk of hospitalization and death.
High-risk individuals should generally be more cautious if the case is high. But with so much data missing from official census reports from health agencies, how do you know how bad the COVID infection is in your community?
You can watch meteorologists on TV while predicting storms but keep your feet outside to look up at the sky, just as public health experts say it’s smart to tune in to both official and fictional signals of growing cases.
Keep an eye on the case count (knowing they are capturing part of the real case there), and hospitalization, and listen to the public health officials. But also pay attention to texts from friends and colleagues who tell you they got COVID-19.
“Those anecdotal evidence can also be useful in making decisions,” Jatelina said. If there is a sudden spike, you may know that more viruses are spreading where you live.
Another tip to look for: If your workplace or children’s school has surveillance surveys – this is a regular test for everyone, even those who have no symptoms – which can be really helpful in keeping a pulse on what’s happening with the virus locally.
“Where I am in Miami-Dade County, municipal employees may still need regular checkups and get an underlying indication of when we are growing,” said Jinji Bailey, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami.
Bailey also likes to use COVID-19 hospital admission data as a proxy for what is happening in her community.
“I look at my local hospital admissions, and if they start ticking upwards, I change my behavior accordingly – I’ll pay a little more attention to the mask, I’m going to pay a little more for what indoor spaces I want to be and how often Focus a little more on what I’m going to do, “he says
Jatelina uses the case count trendline to make decisions for her own family. “My ears started ringing [when there’s] Over the last two weeks there has been an increase of more than 50-75%, “he says. If you look at the case trend line, if the line is” just start crawling slowly, that’s fine, but if the acceleration is faster and faster, then I have something I think so. “
Then there’s a raincoat for weather forecasting – for example, getting your vaccine protection, or boosting if you’re not up-to-date. Although it is easier to make an appointment at a pharmacy, less than half of Americans who received their initial vaccine have not yet received the first booster that was approved in the fall. And now a second booster is available for anyone over 50.
Outside of vaccination, if the virus is now spreading too far in your community, anyone with high-risk due to age or underlying condition – or with someone – would be wise to dial up personal COVID-19 warnings: about time in public spaces inside selected homes and Wear a high quality well-fitting mask when you do this.