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Monday, April 18, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Choose Your Own Covid Adventure: Booster, Mask Decisions Left To Public

With more tools available at this phase of the pandemic, government and public health officials have shifted away from setting guidelines on covid vaccines, booster shots and masks. Instead, individuals are urged to assess their own risk and decide on precautions. So even in the face of another viral surge, news outlets report that most Americans are choosing a path of least resistance — or apathy.


The Wall Street Journal:
Officials Adopt New Message On Covid-19 Behaviors: It’s Your Call 


In the latest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, federal and local officials are telling people to decide for themselves how best to protect against the virus. Health officials are leaving it up to people to assess if they need booster shots, whether to wear a mask and how long to isolate after a positive test. Businesses, schools and other entities are scaling back specific guidelines as they prepare for a return to normal. (Hopkins, 4/17)


NBC News:
Fear, Uncertainty And Apathy: Covid Infections Rise, But Hospitalizations Remain Low


People may want reassurances about the virus and what’s coming next, but they are hard to find in the data. Instead, the numbers point to a murky picture of Covid, particularly looking at case counts and hospital occupancy. At this point, hospitalizations are probably the most solid measure of where the country is on Covid, and they are still low nationally. Hospitalizations are up very slightly from the previous week but still nearly at the lowest they have been in 21 months and nowhere near previous spikes. (Chinni, 4/17)


Fortune:
The COVID Wave America Doesn’t Care About: ‘Everybody Is Sick Of COVID’


The U.S. is in a stealth wave of stealth Omicron—probably. It can’t be known for certain because the country doesn’t have the data it should have. That’s not for lack of technology or supply, but for lack of willpower. Americans largely don’t want to get tested for COVID right now. But it sure seems like another COVID wave, and Americans want to ignore it. On Thursday the U.S. had a seven-day average of nearly 42,000 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center dashboard, based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data—up 6,000 cases from a week ago and 14,000 cases from two weeks ago. (Prater, 4/16)


The Washington Post:
A Tale Of Many Pandemics: In Year Three, A Matter Of Status And Access 


At this precarious moment in the pandemic — with cases comparatively low but poised to rise again — the reality is that people are experiencing many different pandemics depending on their job, health, socioeconomic status, housing and access to medical care. … For millions of Americans, the pandemic remains a ubiquitous threat to their lives and livelihoods. They are immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk of severe illness, unable to take paid time off or to work from home, and they struggle to make ends meet. (Abutaleb, 4/16)


The New York Times:
Is Covid More Dangerous Than Driving? How Scientists Are Parsing Covid Risks


Scientists are thinking anew about how to discuss Covid risks. Some have studied when people could unmask indoors if the goal was not only to keep hospitals from being overrun but also to protect immunocompromised people. Others are working on tools to compare infection risks to the dangers of a wide range of activities, finding, for instance, that an average unvaccinated person 65 and older is roughly as likely to die from an Omicron infection as someone is to die from using heroin for a year-and-a-half. (Mueller, 4/17)

Also —


CNN:
Is Herd Immunity For Covid-19 Still Possible? 


This time last year, the brand new, stunningly effective Covid-19 vaccines were rolling out across the country, injecting a strong note of optimism into the United States’ once fumbling pandemic response. Millions of people were lining up daily to get their shots. Instead of the steady drumbeat of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we were tracking a new number: the percentage of Americans who had been vaccinated. This number, we believed, was our best chance to beat the virus. The US was caught up in a fever dream of reaching herd immunity, a threshold we might cross where vulnerable individuals — including those too young to be vaccinated or those who didn’t respond well to the vaccines — might be protected anyway because, as a community, we would weave an invisible safety net around them. (Goodman, 4/15)

At Houston Facilities, Zero Covid Patients Is A Pandemic First

In encouraging news about the pandemic, the only covid patient in the Harris Health System was discharged Friday. But in Hawaii, the Department of Health has detected its first case of new omicron subvariant XE, East Coast cases are reportedly on the rise, and reinfections are a worry in Nevada.


Houston Chronicle:
Harris Health Has No COVID Patients, A Pandemic Milestone


For local Harris County healthcare workers, Good Friday marked a milestone. The Harris Health System discharged its only COVID-19 patient from the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital Friday afternoon, according to a tweet from the system’s president and CEO Dr. Esmaeil Porsa. That gave the hospital zero COVID-19 patients for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the health service stated. (Umanzor, 4/16)

In other news about the spread of covid —


AP:
Hawaii Laboratory Detects Case Of Omicron Subvariant XE 


A COVID-19 omicron variant hybrid called XE has been detected in Hawaii, the Hawaii state Department of Health said. The department’s laboratories division confirmed one case of XE in its latest variant report, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday. The hybrid contains genetic material from both BA.1 and BA.2 variants. The department found it in a sample collected last month. (4/15)


Fox News:
East Coast COVID-19 Cases On The Rise


As sub-variants of omicron continue to spread in the U.S. and abroad, infections are rising in East Coast states and cities. There were 54,543 new cases in the US. in the past day, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There were also 778 new deaths. 12,736 of those infections were in New York, Virginia reported nearly 1,100, 775 were in Maryland and the COVID-19 level in the District of Columbia was raised to “Medium” at the beginning of the month. (Musto, 4/15)


Las Vegas Review-Journal:
COVID Reinfections A Growing Number Of Cases In Nevada


Reinfections account for about 9 percent of new COVID-19 cases reported in Nevada, according to state data, a growing number blamed in part on easily transmissible variants. This is triple the overall rate of 3 percent of cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. “Since January, reinfections are a greater proportion of total infections,” said Dr. Marc Kahn, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. “And most of that is because of the infectivity of both omicron and the BA.2 variant.” (Hynes, 4/15)


Bangor Daily News:
Community Transmission Of COVID Is High Throughout Most Of Maine


The community transmission levels of COVID-19 have significantly increased throughout the state since last month, data released on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. This comes as wastewater data collected from several Maine cities show an increased presence of the virus, rivaling other major U.S. cities, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. Community transmission levels are high in Somerset, Aroostook, Penobscot, Washington, Waldo, Knox, Kennebec, Oxford, Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, according to U.S. CDC data. (Stockley, 4/15)


AP:
Republican Ohio Gov Mike DeWine Tests Positive For COVID-19 


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has tested positive for COVID-19. The 75-year-old Republican said in an announcement late Friday he was diagnosed by his personal physician after experiencing mild symptoms such as a runny nose, head ache, body aches and a sore throat. DeWine was administered a monoclonal antibody treatment, which is designed to fight the infection. He said he is following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol and quarantining. (Smyth, 4/15)

On covid research —


Bloomberg:
Long Covid May Be Result Of Coronavirus Persisting In Feces


Covid-19 patients can harbor the coronavirus in their feces for months after infection, researchers found, stoking concern that its persistence can aggravate the immune system and cause long Covid symptoms. In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and Covid symptoms, scientists at California’s Stanford University found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste in the week after infection and almost 4% patients still emit them seven months later. The researchers also linked coronavirus RNA in feces to gastric upsets, and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 likely directly infects the gastrointestinal tract, where it may hide out. (Gale, 4/15)


Fortune:
Are Pets Spreading COVID? It’s Less Likely With Omicron, Study Finds


Only 10% of household pets whose owners had Omicron came down with the virus and none were symptomatic, making them unlikely candidates to mutate and spread a more dangerous version of COVID, according to a new study released this week by Spanish researchers. … Other studies have found that other COVID variants like Alpha and Delta were more easily transmitted to household pets, that infected pets were more likely to show symptoms, and that higher viral loads were detected in the pets, according to the study. (Prater, 4/16)


CIDRAP:
Psychiatric Disorders May Up Risk For COVID-19 Reinfection 


A history of certain psychiatric disorders may predispose fully vaccinated COVID-19 survivors to reinfection, according to a study of 263,697 US veterans published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System and the University of California retrospectively analyzed the administrative and electronic health records of US veterans who completed their COVID-19 vaccine primary series at least 14 days earlier from Feb 20, 2020, to Nov 16, 2021. Patients had received the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Van Beusekom, 4/15)


CIDRAP:
Upper Airway Infections In Kids With COVID-19 Rose With Omicron Surge


Rates of upper airway infections (UAIs) such as croup and bacterial tracheitis among pediatric COVID-19 patients, though low, rose after the Omicron variant became dominant in December 2021, with more than one fifth of hospitalized children with both conditions developing severe illness, estimates a study today in JAMA Pediatrics. (4/15)