Chances are, you’re seeing very few people wearing masks these days, and a high level of confidence that Covid is finally, for the most part, behind us. That view may not be totally correct, however.
Last week, the U.S. reported nearly 140,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, the first time confirmed cases exceeded 100,000 since mid-February. Nationwide, cases have climbed by roughly 58% over the past two weeks. The omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.2 has led to yet another resurgence of infections.
But the danger of catching the disease is greater than the danger of dying from it. Covid-related hospitalizations are running at nearly 20,000 per day, up 20% over the last two weeks, but that rise is slower than the infection rate. And deaths due to Covid are down to an average of 301 a day, a 17% drop over the past two weeks, and down from more than 2,600 per day during the omicron winter surge.
The medical professionals who follow these numbers point out that nearly 60% of Americans have already been infected by one of the Covid variants, and roughly 77% of Americans above age 5 have now received at least one vaccination dose. Moreover, there are now effective treatments for those who do end up in the hospital. The antiviral drug Paxlovid has been shown in clinical trials to cut a patient’s risk of death by 89 percent.
This sounds reassuring, until you learn that the recent surge has arisen largely in the Northeast part of the country, where many people still wear masks and the vaccination rate is the highest this side of California. If the new variant spreads to areas where mask wearing is low to nonexistent and fewer people are vaccinated—and especially to rural areas where Paxlovid and other treatments are scarce—we could experience higher death rates and a new round of travel restrictions. In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet.
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