COVID-19 in the United States has been a significant public health concern like anywhere else, though the situation is much better after the launch of vaccines and boosters. Still, the virus doesn’t seem to have relented. Although it is not as dangerous as its ancestor, the new BA.5 virus spreads rapidly, causing higher infections. Hospital admissions and deaths are not so much of concern, except for the unvaccinated. The outbreak has caused enough chaos at different levels, with changing guidelines, a return to normalcy, and more. The situation is evolving rapidly, and how the US responds to it will be an interesting watch.
Nevertheless, the reality is the surging COVID cases across the nation for now. That’s why studying the country’s situation in the context of the pandemic is essential.
American states during coronavirus
According to the Commonwealth Fund 2022, some states performed better than others in coping with the pandemic. The agency evaluated them across seven primary categories: healthy lives, race and ethnicity, income levels, coronavirus, prevention and treatment, and more. This effort aimed to show which places can be better considering when it comes to healthcare and managing COVID. As per data, Hawaii emerged as the number one in its response and management of the pandemic. If you study MyBioSource’s recent poll, you will realize that almost 41% of Hawaiians support official COVID measures. Last year, Alabama was at no 46, but this year it stood at 51 in coronavirus response and management.
There was also a parameter referring to avoidable hospitalizations and costs. Utah was at the top, while West Virginia was at 51. Massachusetts enjoyed a number 2 ranking for its overall performance of all the states. Still, it did best in four areas: healthy lives, race and ethnicity, access and cost-effectiveness, and prevention and treatment.
A spotlight on the BA.5 subvariant
Everyone knows that BA.5 is currently getting all the attention for driving up infection rates and hospitalizations. One of the main COVID hotspots is New York City for having a higher positivity rate and hospital admissions. Yet, you don’t see aggressive messaging and action around this new situation than what happened in the past. The contagious virus makes you down with a cough, soreness in the throat, muscle pain, fever, headaches, etc. People with underlying medical conditions can get severely ill also.
Earlier, most tests took place at clinics, so tracking was easy. However, many cases go unreported with the availability of at-home test kits. As a result, health authorities don’t get an accurate picture of the situation. In this context, it is worth noting that the recent surges are not as high as the last winter. However, according to CDC, there has been a gradual rise in hospitalizations.
San Diego and other places monitor wastewater for analysis purposes. According to San Diego’s Paul Sisson, the community sewage recorded nearly 15.5 million virus particles in every liter of wastewater in one week. Before this, the exact location had reported 8 million copies. In January 2022, the monitoring system showed that this location had 47.6 million virus particles in one liter of wastewater.
Both BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are highly transmissible and mutable. Hence, they can evade the immunity developed from earlier infection or vaccine, added a notable epidemiology professor Natalie Dean.
The situation in New York City
NYC has been the worst-hit place in the US since the pandemic happened. It can be attributable to its crowded spaces, busy public transport systems, and others that allow the virus to spread quickly. The BA.5 variant has not affected the way the previous wave had done. Still, cases are rising and can be much higher than what you know from the data. In this context, it can be helpful to know that the city had gotten rid of testing and tracing in April 2022. You don’t have to present your vaccine ID to enter a restaurant. The masking rule also disappeared in March, except for public transit. If you look further, NYC’s health department dropped the system of color-coding that alerted about the status of COVID-19 in a specific area and ways to manage them.
Amid all this, the good news is vaccines protect people against the severity of the virus and minimize death risks. However, the contagious nature of the variant is a concern because it means more infections. And when this happens, the chances of some people getting very sick also become higher. Such situations can affect people who have been diligent with their immunization, social distancing, and masking. Also, higher infection and hospitalizations can burden the country’s healthcare system, which is already facing or is on the verge of a staffing shortage. Also, you don’t want your loved ones to suffer just because you ignored the current COVID surge and the need to be careful. So, choose your decisions wisely and act.