‘We do everything we can to survive.’ As the United States pushes for a reality before Covid, high-risk and disabled Americans feel forgotten
‘We do everything we can to survive.’  As the United States pushes for a reality before Covid, high-risk and disabled Americans feel forgotten

‘We do everything we can to survive.’ As the United States pushes for a reality before Covid, high-risk and disabled Americans feel forgotten

“My son looked up at me and he had tears in his eyes because he knew what it meant. He said, ‘Mom, does that mean I can not go to school anymore?'” Nelson said. “He said, ‘Can’t we let the governor know about children like me? I want to go to school too.'”

Jack, a fourth grader, has cystic fibrosis, a progressive genetic disease that causes persistent, harmful lung infections, making it harder to breathe over time. Like other immunocompromised, disabled, and chronically ill Americans, Jack was take action, like masking, to also avoid infections before the pandemic. But with Covid-19 still prevalent, it’s not that easy. Even though he is vaccinatedthe virus constitutes a serious, potentially deadly, risk for Jack. His 2-year-old brother, who is not yet justified for the shots, is another concern.

Nelson keeps his son at home again because of it.

“This whole pandemic, our culture, media (and) government has made it very clear to high-risk and disabled people that we are an acceptable loss,” Nelson said. “We are also doing everything we can to survive this pandemic.”

Covid-19 cases and admissions is declining nationallybut transmission – how much virus circulates in a community – remains high in more than 90% of the United States, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC still recommend to everyone to mask indoors in areas with significant or high transmission.
But public health experts are divided whether it is time to repeal remedial measures. Some say Dropping protection at a time when Covid’s figures are so high is a political step rather than a public health one. Others say the downward trends justifies these features and notes Omicron is milder than previous variants for most healthy people.
As local and state leaders nationwide remote mask and vaccination rules, people at high risk for serious illness say that abolishing protection now makes them more vulnerable, especially when they or family members return to personal work or school. And for some, Covid-19 vaccines are not just as effective by averting a serious battle with the virus, which caused the CDC to recommend a fourth shot for immunocompromised individuals 12 years and older in October.
About seven million American adults are immunocompromised, the CDC discretion. Although not everyone has conditions that leave them severely immunocompromised and vulnerable to severe Covid-19, about 61 million adults – about one in four in the United States – have some form of disabilityaccording to bureauet. More than three million children had a disability in 2019, according to to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Everyone knows someone who had cancer, everyone knows someone who has had a kidney transplant for one reason or another, or someone who has Alzheimer’s or someone who has a heart disease or someone who was born with a rare immune deficiency,” said Sara Willette, who has been in isolation with her husband in Iowa since the state reported its first case of the virus about 700 days ago.

Immunocompromised people may need a fourth Covid-19 shot, the CDC says

“The more protections we remove, the less accessible the rest of the world becomes to high-risk people,” Willette said.

Although Willette is triple vaccinated and preparing for her fourth shot, catching the virus can be fatal. She has Common variable immunodeficiency disease (CVID), which means that her body does not produce protective antibodies to defend itself against pathogens such as bacteria or viruses.
The couple considered leaving their home in Ames and moving to Southern California, where stricter masking protocols could have helped protect her. But they ruled out the idea after California’s governor repealed the mandate for indoor mask for vaccinated persons this month, citing a decrease in infections.
Iowa’s legislators go even further – a bill effectively seeking to ban vaccine and mask mandates is on the way through the Legislative Assembly. “We have to make a choice between staying alive and having a life,” Willette said.
The high-risk people CNN spoke to said as the country eagerly looking forward to moving on from the pandemic, they feel forgotten – and even worse, as if they mean nothing to the rest of the American public. Some say they feel they have been left to adapt to a more dangerous reality, while others are now mapping out a permanently isolated lifestyle.

Families face impossible choices

In Wilmington, Massachusetts, Karen Yurek’s family is having a hard time balancing. Yurek and her husband are both high-risk and on immunosuppressive medication. She has rheumatoid arthritis and he has multiple sclerosis. Both have received four Covid-19 shots and are working remotely.

Their family was almost completely isolated until last week, when their 6-year-old son, Billy, returned to school. Billy is vaccinated and Yurek and her husband felt he could stay safe using a universal masking requirement that was in place.

So government officials announced that they were lifting the mandate at the end of February. Yurek wrote to The Wilmington School Committee, which urges them to keep masks mandatory to “protect the members of our society who no longer have the luxury of ‘normal’.”

The committee voted Wednesday to lift its mask mandate, posing a difficult dilemma for Yurek’s family: pulling their child out of personal class or risking serious illness.

“It’s really demoralizing,” Yurek said. “It just feels like everyone’s so focused on getting back to normal that … they forget all the really vulnerable people. And if they do not forget them, they just say, ‘Well, you’re alone.’ ”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s John Berman on Thursday that the abolition of school mask mandates given current transmission levels could push cases up again. “We’ve been to this show before,” he said. “Where things fell, you retreat a little, and it bounces back.”

Karen Yurek's son, Billy, is seen here on his first day back in personal school.  He was excited to be back, Yurek said.
When asked this month about immunocompromised Americans feeling left out, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that the agency is working to update its mask guide so that it is “relevant to the public, but also to the public who are immunocompromised and disabled,” but offered no further details.
To help keep more people safe, mask requirements should depend on how much virus is circulating in a community, said Raymund Razonable, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and vice president of the Department of Public Health, Infectious Diseases and Occupational Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. Throwing masks at a time, the virus is still widespread and the threat of several variants – inclusive and Omicron subvariant “Weaving is a risk,” Razonable told CNN.
All but one of the remaining states that still had mask mandates in place – Hawaii – have announced plans to remove them.
Growing numbers of states, major cities lift Covid-19 restrictions
Other local leaders have also announced the end of vaccine measures. The country’s capital put an end to the demand for indoor commercial vaccine on Tuesday. In the following days, Philadelphia and Boston also announced that they were dropping vaccine requirements. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams told employers to cease work from home policiessaid at a news conference, “We need people back at work.”
“Unfortunately, for the most part, we see a lot of disregard for immunocompromised and disabled communities,” said April Moreno, a public health expert and founder of Autoimmun Community Institute, a non-profit research and advocacy company. “We are in pain.”
Kris Giere, a 42-year-old who has type 1 diabetes and lives in Indiana, a state that completed his mask mandate April last year, repeated the same.
“I’m tired of having to worry about how many disease vectors I’m in contact with,” Giere said. “I’m up for grabs every day because I can not walk Back to normal. There is no way back to normal for me. ”

‘We do not have the luxury of pretending that the pandemic is over’

When the CDC updated its insulation guidelines in December to say that people can leave isolation five days after testing positive if their symptoms are gone or getting better, and to wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days, the agency also called them to “avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk of serious illness,” for at least 10 days.
But it can be hard to know when someone – a colleague, a friend or a passerby – is immunocompromised or high-risk, Moreno pointed out. This is why many conditions are known as “invisible diseases.”
April Moreno, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition several years ago, says she feels high-risk Americans are being ignored.

“No one … has given me a giant foam hat with an arrow that says ‘immune compromised’ on it,” said Matthew Cortland, who works with disability and health policy at Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “It’s absurd how far we have to go to reduce to some extent the risk that society as a whole is just relieving us.”

Cortland works permanently from home. But many friends who are also chronically ill and disabled do not have the same opportunity. That’s why public health measures remain critical, Cortland said, including global vaccination campaigns, widespread availability and use of high quality masksresearch into more adaptive personal protective equipment, improvements to indoor air quality, better testing procedures and adequate treatments.
The United States has increased its order on one of the keys preventive therapies for the immunocompromised, health and human secretary Xavier Becerra announced last week. But even with that boost, the country will only have enough of the monoclonal antibody treatment for less than a quarter of its immunocompromised population. And while there are other Covid-19 therapies that can help people, including severely immunocompromised, they are still in short supply in many parts of the United States and will not be more widely available until spring, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said.

“There is not enough for the millions of immunocompromised patients,” Razonable said. At his hospital, he said there is an “adequate” supply to cover only “the highest risk group” of people.

Two years later, high-risk Americans feel traumatized and exhausted by the daily risk assessments and new obstacles that life in a Covid-era America brings.

As Cortland puts it: “No one actually wants to end the pandemic more than disabled, chronically ill and immunocompromised Americans. We just do not have the luxury of pretending that the pandemic is over when it is not. And that’s clear. . is not.”

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