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Friday, December 09, 2022

A third of America should be considering masks, officials say

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the United States – and could get worse in the coming months, federal health officials warned on Wednesday as they consider revisiting calls for indoor masking. to be urged in the most difficult areas.

The rising number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations is putting more people under guidelines issued by the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions.

Right now, about a third of the US population lives in areas that are considered high-risk – mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Officials said those are areas where people already indoors should be considering wearing masks – but Americans should also take note.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said at a White House briefing with reporters, “The first rise of infection in different waves of infection suggests that it travels across the country.”

For a growing number of areas, “we urge local leaders to encourage the use of prevention strategies such as masks in public indoor settings and to increase access to testing and treatment,” she said.

However, officials were cautious about making concrete predictions, saying that how bad the pandemic gets will depend on a number of factors, including the extent to which past infections will protect against new forms.

Last week, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, warned in an interview with the Associated Press that if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments, the United States could suffer this fall and winter. Will be hit by coronovirus.

Jha warned that without additional funding from Congress for the virus there would be “unnecessary loss of life” in the fall and winter, when the US runs out of treatment.

He said the US was already behind other countries in securing supplies of the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and added that the domestic manufacturing base of domestic testing was already drying up as demand dwindled.

Jha said that domestic test makers have begun closing lines and laying off workers, and will start selling equipment in the coming weeks and prepare to exit the business of production tests altogether, unless the US The government might not have the money to buy more tests, like hundreds of millions of people sent this year for free to the families who requested them.

Jha warned that the US would have to rely on other countries to test supplies, mitigating the risk of shortages. Jha said around 8.5 million households placed orders for the latest tranche of 8 free tests since the order opened on Monday.

The pandemic is now 2 1/2 years old. And the US has seen – depending on how you count them – five waves of COVID-19 during that time, with a subsequent surge driven by mutated versions of the coronavirus. The fifth wave occurred mainly in December and January, caused by the Omicron version.

The Omicron version spread more easily than the earlier versions.

Some experts are concerned that the country is now seeing signs of a sixth wave, driven by an Omicron subvariant. On Wednesday, Valensky saw a steady increase in COVID-19 cases over the past five weeks, including a 26% increase nationally over the past week.

He said hospitalizations are also rising, a 19% increase over the past week, although they are much lower than the omicron wave.

In late February, as the wave was waning, the CDC issued a new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 was easing its grip, with less focus on positive test results and in hospitals. What are you saying.

Valensky said more than 32% of the country currently live in an area with moderate or high COVID-19 community levels, including more than 9% in the highest levels, where the CDC recommends that masks and other Mitigation efforts should be used.

In the past week, an additional 8% of Americans were living in counties with moderate or high COVID-19 community levels.

Officials said they are concerned that a lack of immunity and lack of mitigation measures could contribute to the continued rise in infections and diseases across the country. He encouraged people — especially older adults — to get boosters.

Some health experts say that the government should take clear and bold steps.

CDC community-level guidelines are confusing the public, and do not give a clear picture of how much virus transmission is occurring in a community, said Dr Lakshmi Ganapathy, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard University.

When government officials make recommendations but don’t set rules, “it’s ultimately up to every individual to choose the public health one that works for themselves. But it’s not the one that’s effective. If you’re hospitalized, And even talking about preventing deaths, all of these interventions work better when people do it collectively,” she said.

Stobe reported from New York.

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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