In the middle of a growth COVID-19 increase Abroad, there are renewed concerns among U.S. health officials that the proliferation of the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2, combined with declining vaccine immunity and the decision to stop masking recommendations, could face the country. yet another viral resurgence.
“What we are seeing in Europe, and especially in the UK, is something we really need to be aware of, because they are starting to see a turnaround and a resurgence of cases,” Drs. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Adviser, told “GMA3” on Friday. “So even if our cases continue to fall, I would not be surprised if over the next few weeks … we can very well see an increase in cases.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 23.1% of new cases in the United States are BA.2. Studies estimate that BA.2 is between 30% and 80% more contagious than the original strain, and federal data show that its presence in the United States almost doubles every week.
There are already initial indicators that the nation may be on the verge of an increase as the nation begins to see a plateau in infection and hospitalization rates, which were previously declining.
Earlier this week, wastewater data shared by the CDC revealed that between February 24 and March 10, 37% of wastewater sites monitored by the CDC experienced a 100% or more increase in the presence of COVID-19 virus in their wastewater. About 30% of these sites have experienced an increase of 1,000% or more
Nationwide, new data shows that COVID-19-related hospitalizations also appear to be on the plateau after weeks of steady decline. Over the past two months, the level of hospitalization had dropped dramatically, but over the past week, these daily declines have steadily diminished.
Virus-related hospitalizations now stand at about 23,000 patients, according to federal data.
“You’ve just come across a wave of the most transmissible # SARSCoV2 variant the world has seen, with the highest level of hospital admissions in the pandemic,” Dr. Eric Topol, Professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research, said in a tweet on Thursday. “Now you are faced with a variant [with] 30% more transferability, [without] remedial measures, low [vaccination] coverage and clean-up financing. “
CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Thursday that she also anticipates that there may be an increase in new virus cases in the U.S. as BA.2 spreads, warning that it is “definitely … possible” that mask recommendations need to be re-implemented.
“We want to ensure that people have the opportunity to relax in their mitigation strategies when things are as good as they are right now,” Walensky said during a panel discussion with the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“But then, they should put that mask in a drawer, because if we have more cases that occur in the winter, if we have more cases that occur due to a new variant, we want to ensure that people have the opportunity to to Take these masks off so we can re-implement them and protect people should we need them again, “she added.
Officials are closely monitoring the viral resurgence that is happening abroad, Walensky said, looking for clues as to what it might signal for the crisis in the United States.
But abroad, similar to the previous omicron rise, there are hopeful signs that should there be a resurgence, intensive care units and morgues will not be as overwhelmed as in previous rises. In the UK, ICU capacity has not yet seen a remarkable increase, which experts say could ultimately prevent a significant increase in virus-related deaths.
“Their use of intensive care units is not increasing, which means they are not seeing an increase in serious illness,” Fauci told ABC News’ Brad Mielke on the podcast “Start Here,” in an interview aired Friday, adding that UK officials have not reported an increase in severity due to the BA.2 sub-variant.
The best way to avoid a significant increase would be to get vaccinated and boosted, Fauci said.
Earlier this week, the CDC released data showing that vaccines still dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization or death of COVID-19.
In January, unvaccinated adults were nine times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated individuals and six times more likely to require hospitalization. Unvaccinated adults were about 21 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in January and 12 times more likely to require hospitalization compared to fully vaccinated and boosted adults.
Although groundbreaking COVID-19 infections increased during the omicron wave in February, unvaccinated adults were still 2.8 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated individuals and 3.2 times more likely to test positive compared to with fully vaccinated and boosted adults.
Experts say Americans need to be flexible and willing to take on the future challenges that may arise as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.
“We are not done with this pandemic as much as we all want. We are not,” said the newly appointed White House COVID-19 coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, during a performance on “Good Morning America” on Friday. “Whatever the pandemic throws at us, we must be ready for it.”