The fast-changing coronavirus has started the US summer with lots of infections but relatively few deaths compared to its earlier incarnations.
COVID-19 still kills hundreds of Americans every day, but it’s not nearly as deadly as last fall and winter.
“It’s going to be a good summer and we deserve this break,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health measurement science at the University of Washington in Seattle.
With many Americans protected from serious illness through vaccinations and infections, COVID-19 has turned – at least for now – into a nasty, inconvenient nuisance for many.
Dr Dan Kaul, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, said: “Feeling very, very cautiously right now. “For the first time that I can remember, pretty much since it started, we didn’t have any (COVID-19) patients in the ICU.”
As the nation marks July 4, the average daily death toll from COVID-19 in the United States is hovering around 360. Last year, during a similar summer lull, the figure was on about 228 people at the beginning of July. That is still the lowest threshold for daily deaths in the US since March 2020, when the virus first spread to the US.
But the number of cases reported this time last year was much less – less than 20,000 cases a day. Now, it is around 109,000 – and may be a very low number because home tests are not reported frequently.
Today, in the third year of the pandemic, it’s easy to feel confused by the mixed picture: Repeat infections are increasingly likely.and a large portion of those infected will face prolonged symptoms of COVID-19.
However, the risk of death is markedly reduced for many people.
“And that’s because we’re at a point where people’s immune systems have seen the virus or vaccines two or three times. “Over time, the body learns not to overreact when it sees this virus.”
“What we’re seeing is people getting sick less and less,” says Dowdy.
According to one influential model, up to 8 out of 10 people in the US have been infected at least once.
The COVID-19 death rate has been a moving target, but has recently fallen to within the range of an average flu season, according to data analyzed by University health industry researcher Mara Aspinall. State of Arizona.
At first, some said the coronavirus was no more deadly than the flu, “and for a long time that wasn’t true,” Aspinall said. Back then, humans had no immunity. Treatments are experimental. Vaccines do not exist.
For now, Aspinall said, the built-in immunity has reduced mortality rates firmly to within the range of a typical flu season. Over the past decade, flu mortality has been about 5% to 13% among those hospitalized.
The big difference that separates flu from COVID-19: The behavior of the coronavirus continues to surprise health professionals, and it remains unclear whether it will translate into a flu-like seasonal pattern.
Last summer – when vaccination was first widely available in the US – was followed by a delta surge and then the emergence of omicrons, killing 2,600 Americans a day at its peak in May. 2 years ago.
Experts agree that a new variant could arise that is likely to escape the population’s built-in immunity. And the rapidly spreading omicron subtypes BA.4 and BA.5 may also contribute to changes in mortality.
Dr Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said: “We thought we understood it until these new extra variables emerged.
It would be wise, he said, to assume that a new variant will emerge and roll out nationwide later this summer.
“And then another late fall-winter wave,” Hotez said.
Nicholas Reich, who compiles coronavirus projections for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control, said that in the coming weeks, deaths could rise in many states, but the entire US The period may see a slight decrease in the number of deaths. and Prevention.
“We have seen the number of COVID hospitalizations increase to about 5,000 new admissions per day from more than 1,000 in early April. But COVID deaths have only increased slightly over the same period,” said Reich, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Unvaccinated people are six times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those with at least one initial series of shots, the CDC estimates based on data available from April.
This summer, consider your own vulnerability and that of those around you, especially during mass gatherings because the virus is spreading so quickly, Dowdy said.
“There are still people who take a lot of risks,” he said.
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