What rising Covid-19 infections in the UK and Europe could mean for the US
The number of daily cases in the country – about 55,000 a day – is still less than a third of Omicron’s peak, but the number of cases is rising just as quickly as it was two weeks ago when the state lifted restrictions related to the pandemic.
The situation in Europe worries public health officials for two reasons: first, the UK offers a glimpse of what could happen in the US, and second, something unusual appears to be happening. In previous waves, increases in Covid hospital admissions reversed jumps in cases by about 10 days to two weeks. Now, in the UK, cases and hospitalizations appear to be rising side by side, something that has baffled experts.
Dr. said. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.
Fauci said he and his British colleagues spoke out and linked the turnout to a set of three factors. Fauci said, in order of contribution, these are:
- Variant BA.2, which is more portable than the original Omicron
- Opening up of society, as people mingle more indoors without masks
- Weakened immunity from a previous vaccination or infection
Since BA.2 does not appear to cause more serious disease – at least not in the highly vaccinated UK population – it is not clear why hospital admissions are so high.
“The hospitalization problem is a bit puzzling because despite the increase in hospital admissions, it is very clear that their use of intensive care beds has not increased,” Fauci said. “So is the number of hospital admissions a true reflection of Covid cases, or is there a difficulty deciphering among people who have been hospitalized with or because of Covid?”
“Without a doubt, the openness of society and the mixing of people indoors is clearly a contributing factor, such as poor immunity in general, which means we really need to stay informed and watch the pattern here,” Fauci said. “So we are monitoring this closely.”
Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told CNN, “It’s like a weather alert. It’s sunny and clear right now, and we hope it stays that way. But the weather could be bad by evening, and we don’t know.” †
What will BA.2 do in the US?
BA.2 is growing steadily in the United States. Last week, the CDC estimated that it causes about 12% of new Covid-19 cases here.
Meanwhile, BA.2 now accounts for more than 50% of cases in the UK and several other European countries.
“The tipping point appears to be correct at about 50%,” said Keri Altoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This is when we really started to see this variant bend its power in the population,” just as he shows his seriousness.
Altov said that while the UK can offer a glimpse into the future, there are key differences that will affect how BA.2 operates in the US.
In the UK, 86% of eligible people are fully vaccinated and 67% get a boost, compared to 69% of those vaccinated and 50% in the US.
“What we’re seeing happening in the UK is probably a better story than we’re expecting here,” Altoff said.
She noted that in the Netherlands it took about a month for BA.2 to beat BA.1. If the same schedule occurs in the United States, that means the variant takes off, just as immunity to Omicron infection will weaken during the winter.
“I’m worried about that,” Altoff said. “But last spring we were in a similar situation where we were really hoping that things would settle down, we’d have a little bit of summer, and then the Delta would blow us away.”
Altov said it will be important for people to understand that they may be able to take their masks off for a few weeks, but they may also need to wear them regularly when cases peak.
“We can see a new wave of disease in our hospitals,” she said.
“Wastewater monitoring is an amazing advance in how we monitor SARS-CoV-2 and what it does in the population without really needing any input from people,” she said. “Wastewater monitoring is an important tool for understanding where the virus is going and whether it is increasing in infection.”
Preparing for the next wave
Protection against the next variant must begin with vaccination.
“We definitely need to keep looking for and vaccinating unvaccinated people,” Altov said.
Fauci agreed that vaccination coverage could be better in all age groups, but said the current numbers are particularly bad for children. Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 28% of children aged 5-11 years have been fully vaccinated, while 58% of children aged 12-17 have received two doses of the vaccine.
While younger children, under the age of 5, cannot yet be vaccinated, recent studies have shown that young children are less likely to contract Covid-19 if they are surrounded by older children and adults who have been vaccinated.
“The way you protect them is to surround the kids as much as possible with the vaccinated people and boost them so that you have a bit of a blanket of protection around them,” Fauci said.
It will also be important to be flexible.
“The most important thing about this huge experiment, where we are getting rid of all masks and restrictions, is that we need to remain diligent in monitoring and testing them and be prepared to undo a lot of easing of those restrictions,” Deborah Fuller said. . , a microbiologist at the University of Washington.
“We can’t be prepared because the message people get when they say ‘we are lifting restrictions’ is that the pandemic is over,” she said.
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