(Nation World News) — The long-awaited lull in coronavirus cases in the summer is unlikely as Covid-19 infections continue to rage across much of the United States.
The earlier increase in cases this year was driven by Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant. Now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that two other subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, make up more than 70% of new infections in the country. These subvariants may partially evade immunity generated by the vaccine and from previous infection, although vaccination still has the potential to protect against serious disease.
This development comes as more people resume travel and other pre-pandemic activities.
How should people think about their risk of contracting COVID-19 right now? If they are vaccinated and raised, are they safe? What about people who have recently been vaccinated for COVID-19? What kind of precautions should people take if they still want to avoid Kovid-19? And if someone tests positive for coronavirus, should they continue to isolate themselves?
To answer these questions, we spoke with Dr. Lena Wayne, a Nation World News medical analyst, emergency room physician, and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health”.
Nation World News: Do current COVID-19 trends indicate that we are facing another surge in cases in the United States?
wear. Lena Wayne: I’m not sure it’s called another increase because the number was not actually less than the previous increase. Over the winter, from approximately December 2021 to February 2022, we saw a massive increase in cases of Omicron’s parent subtype, BA.1. There was a short pause; Then along came that increase in BA.2 cases. Now, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are displacing the previous omicron subvariants and causing the majority of infections in the United States. In many places, the high base of cases has led to an increase in infections.
It should also be noted that the number of reported cases is much less than the actual number of cases. I think we may have five to 10 times more cases than reported, given that many cases are diagnosed by home antigen tests and not reported to public health officials.
The good news is that hospitals aren’t flooded with these recent improvements, showing the powerful effect of vaccines in separating infection from serious illness.
Nation World News: With numbers like these, how should people think about their exposure to COVID-19? Does this mean that people should cancel travel and reimpose restrictions?
Wayne: I don’t think most people should change their daily activities, but I do think people should be aware of their risk of getting infected with COVID-19 if they don’t take extra precautions.
The good news is that vaccinations and boosters continue to provide excellent protection against serious disease. However, we also know that immunity declines over time, and there appears to be some (theft) of immunity, especially with BA.4 and BA.5. This means that people who have been vaccinated and grown are not likely to become seriously ill if they have COVID-19, but they can still become infected.
The question people need to ask themselves is to what extent do they want to avoid infection? There are so many viruses around us, and the variants are so contagious. This means that extra attention is needed to avoid infection. Many people may not want to continue to plan their lives around COVID-19 precautions, especially if they are generally healthy and well protected from serious illness.
On the other hand, many people may still prefer not to have COVID-19 because of the risk of prolonged symptoms. They may also have underlying medical conditions that lead them to more serious consequences, or they may live with other people who are more vulnerable and wish to reduce the risk to those around them.
Nation World News: What advice do you give for people who want to be vigilant?
Wayne: For those who want to prioritize reducing their risk of COVID-19 infection, the first thing I would advise them to do is follow CDC guidelines and stay up to date on their vaccinations. Anyone 5 years of age and older can get the first booster. Those over 50 can get a second booster, for a total of four shots.
Some people (those who are moderately or severely immunized) can receive up to five vaccinations. (These people should also find out if they can receive evushield, preventive antibodies that can help slow the progression of serious disease.)
I also urge you to wear a high quality N95 mask or its equivalent in closed and crowded places. Just because the mask mandate has been lifted doesn’t mean people shouldn’t wear them. Many people do not consider masks to be inconvenient. In that case, I will continue to wear a mask in all closed public places. For those of you who find them uncomfortable, I encourage you to use them in the highest risk environments, for example, in airport security lines and when boarding and disembarking.
Of course, remember that outdoor gatherings still carry much less risk than indoors. Those who want to be extra cautious should try to attend outdoor gatherings if possible, and attend indoor gatherings only if everyone else is testing negative that day.
Nation World News: Many people are sick of hearing about these precautions. What if they just want to live their life, but don’t want to infect vulnerable people?
Wayne: I certainly understand this sentiment. It is very difficult for society to ban individuals and ask people to postpone celebrations like weddings and birthday parties forever or give up activities like closed restaurants and gyms. My best advice is to recognize that if you go indoors, you can get sick with COVID-19. Be aware of the risk you run into and take the necessary precautions.
For example, you might be able to live your life the way you want, but have a quick test the day before you visit Grandma at the nursing home. If you attend a wedding with many guests in a closed space, get tested a few days later to make sure you are not infected with the coronavirus. And if you notice symptoms at any time, get tested immediately and don’t expose those around you.
Nation World News: Are you safe if you have recently had COVID-19?
Wayne: Recent infection creates some protection that probably lasts about three months. However, re-infection can occur, and some studies suggest that being ill with the original omicron subvariant (BA.1) does not protect against new variants. Vaccinations as well as recent recovery provide better protection, so make sure you are up to date on your shots and boosters, even if you have COVID-19.
Nation World News: And if you test positive, do you have to isolate yourself?
Wayne: Yes, because you don’t want to infect others with COVID-19. CDC’s guidance is to self-isolate for five days and then wear a mask for another five days if symptoms improve.
I think a testing policy is even better because people are infected for different periods of time. I would encourage people to do daily home testing from day 4 and end the isolation if the home rapid antigen test is negative. Now’s the time to make sure you have plenty of home tests available.