First Thing: US Covid surge is big risk and is ‘not being taken seriously’


JANUARY 16, 2023

Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPA

In the fourth year of the pandemic, Covid-19 is once again spreading across the US and is being driven by the recent holidays, fewer precautions and the continuing evolution of Omicron subvariants.

New subvariants are causing concern because of their increased transmissibility and ability to evade some antibodies, but the same tools continue to curtail the spread of Covid, especially bivalent boosters, masks, ventilation, antivirals and other precautions, according to experts.

Yet booster uptake had been “pitiful”, said Dr Neil Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Antiviral uptake was low, and few mandates on masking, vaccination and testing had resumed despite the increase in cases this winter, which was once again putting pressure on healthcare systems, he added.

New Covid admissions to hospital are now at the fourth-highest rate of the pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid hospitalizations declined after the summer wave but not to the low levels recorded after previous spikes, persisting through the fall and rising again during the winter holidays.

  • How big is the increase? Covid deaths rose by 44%, from 2,705 in the week ending 4 January to 3,907 in the week ending 11 January. This is one of the greatest increases in cases since the pandemic began, according to wastewater analyses of the virus. It is much lower than the peak in January 2022 but similar to the summer 2022 increase.

Courtesy/Source: The Guardian