Lines in the graphics can I tell you something about the state of the Covid pandemic in the United States. Deaths: Decreasing, even with the imminent milestone of one millionth death in the United States. Hospitalizations: at historically low levels, but rising again. Cases: The increase, especially in the northeast, is a reliable omen for the rest of the country.
What you can’t do with these lines is use them to chart your path, because at this point, we’ve reached the stage of your own pandemic adventure. Most mask warrants have been lifted. Testing programs have been cut, here and in other countries. Congress has refused to fund large parts of the White House Covid agenda. Knowing where you are at risk is more confusing than ever and is likely to be more difficult as the new planned variants arrive.
All indicators suggest that the US is likely ready for a further increase in Covid; in some parts of the country, that increase may already be coming. But in our zeal to declare the pandemic over, we may have maneuvered ourselves to a position where it is now more difficult to detect an approaching wave. “Increasingly, the relaxation of public health requirements, mandates, has attributed responsibility to the individual and the employer,” says Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and adjunct professor at George Mason University. “But I have noticed that when we relax these mandates, we do so at really inopportune times, when the number of cases is already increasing.”
And cases they are increasing in the US. The seven-day moving average calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 42,605 cases last week, 35% more than a week earlier. The number of counties scoring high and medium on the CDC’s “community level” map rose last week.
All this is due to the Omicron variant that roared around the world last November, and even more so to its fast-paced underlines. What most of us think of as Omicron is scientifically known as BA.1; which was supplanted in January for a newer version, BA.2. The initial success of Omicron and the rapid spread of the laser were driven by its ability to bypass the immune protections created by vaccination. Although it caused a less serious illness, it caused so many cases that it crushed the hospitals. BA.2 did not take advantage of immune escape in the same way as BA.1, but it turned out to be more fiercely transmissible than its already contagious predecessor. In mid-March, the World Health Organization reported that BA.2 had become the dominant strain worldwide.
Simultaneously, BA.3 emerged, then BA.4 and BA.5, rapidly displacing other variants to southern Africa and migrating to countries. in Europe. Meanwhile, a variation of BA.2 with the technical name BA.2.12.1 is also increasing. In a weekly assessment released by the CDC on Tuesday, it now accounts for nearly 29 percent of U.S. cases.
These sub-variants are important for two reasons: first, each is a sign that SARS-CoV-2 will not lift the siege soon. On Monday, evolutionary biologist Tom Wenseleers predicted “A significant surge every six months with significant mortality and morbidity.”