A New Covid Mystery

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  • The current moment might be one of those times when we’re asking why cases have not begun to rise right as they begin to rise. 
  • But a new wave looks less certain than it did a few weeks ago.
  • Regardless, the steps that can save lives in the coming months remain the same.

New Covid-19 instances have not started to rise in the United States, much to the astonishment of many individuals as reported by The New York Times.

Stable situation

Even as the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron has become the prevalent form of Covid in the United States, they have been rather stable over the past two weeks, decreasing approximately 1%.

Cases spiked across most of Europe last month when BA.2 started spreading there, and many experts predicted a similar pattern here. That has not occurred. “It hasn’t taken off,” Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, informed.

What’s going on? 

1. More immunity

Even though the U.S. has a lower vaccination rate than Western Europe, this country may still have built up more immunity — thanks to our politically polarized response to the virus.

In liberal parts of the U.S., vaccination rates can be even higher than in Europe.

This laissez-faire approach has had horrible downsides.

Covid death rates have been much higher in counties that voted for Donald Trump than those that voted for Joe Biden.

“Most of Europe has been pretty Covid averse,” William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist, said on a recent episode of the “In the Bubble” podcast, “whereas parts of the United States have been quite Covid curious,” Hanage said that he still expected U.S. caseloads to rise soon.

But, he added, “I don’t think it’s going to be as dramatic as Europe.”

2. Fewer tests

The shift toward at-home testing in recent months means that a smaller share of actual Covid cases may be showing up in the data that government agencies report and news organizations like The Times published.

The government data relies on laboratory tests.

Another potential factor depressing the volume of tests is reduced access for lower-income Americans.

All of this raises the possibility that Covid cases really are surging now, even if the data doesn’t show it.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, a former F.D.A. commissioner, told CNBC that he thought some parts of the country were “dramatically” underreporting cases.

Still, the shortage of testing does not seem to be the only reason that cases have not surged in the U.S. Trends in Covid hospitalizations typically lag case trends by only about a week.

3. Just wait

Even if high levels of immunity have stopped cases from rising in the past, this may not be the case in the future. Remember that Omicron infected around 45% of Americans, leaving about 55% unaffected. While many of them in the 55% may have received an older version of Covid, protection from the virus might fade with time.

It’s possible that we’re at a point where we’re wondering why cases aren’t rising as quickly as they should. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University, told me, “It may be too early to notice a signal.”

4. Another mystery

Throughout the pandemic, Osterholm — the Minnesota epidemiologist — has lamented that many scientists, journalists and laypeople exaggerate how much we actually know about Covid.

Other versions of the virus have surged and receded in mysterious ways, much as a forest fire can die out without burning down an entire forest.

The bottom line: Cases still seem likely to rise, perhaps significantly, in the U.S. soon.

But a new wave looks less certain than it did a few weeks ago.

Regardless, the steps that can save lives in the coming months remain the same: more vaccine shots, including boosters; and greater awareness of available treatments that offer extra protection for the vulnerable.

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Source: The New York Times 

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