ATLANTA, GA – July 20, 2022 – The latest COVID-19 wave has struck the United States including Asheville at the same time that our country is suffering from pandemic fatigue. Cases are rising in the South and the West and these numbers are most likely undercounted because many people are testing at home and not reporting the results. Paradoxically, public health restrictions and mandates are no longer in effect; people have resumed many at-risk activities that they avoided during the pandemic like gatherings without masks, eating indoors and flying; and political leaders avoid virus-related discussion. As told to the Washington Post, Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunology at Yale University, said, “I understand the pandemic fatigue, but the virus is not done with us.”
A new omicron variant called BA.5 is the dominant virus of new infections in the U.S. and more transmissible than prior strains. Immunity derived from vaccines and prior infections may not be as effective against the virus as it enters the body so people are susceptible to mild or asymptomatic infection. On the other hand, a specialized white blood cell subtype called T-cells act as a line of defense once the virus has made it into the body by preventing the virus from multiplying and causing severe disease. The number of new hospitalizations has doubled since April, although they are much lower than January’s number with the first omicron surge. The number of counties in the U.S. at high and medium risk outnumber low risk counties. Almost one-third of the U.S. population lives in a county with a high level of Covid spread. About 40% of the U.S. population live in a medium level county. Asheville is at a medium level.
Effective public health measures should remain in our armamentarium and get reactivated whenever there is a COVID-19 surge in spite of our pandemic fatigue and desire to get back to normal. Social-distancing and wearing face masks in public indoor spaces, keeping up-to-date with vaccination, testing and treatment with therapeutics are important to keep COVID-19 under control. Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, says, “Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against severe outcomes.” The CDC is also pushing boosters because they have been shown to strengthen the immune system against Covid because protective antibodies wane with time, particularly in older and immunocompromised individuals. New vaccines are being developed to be more effective against these new strains of coronavirus.
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Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org