As the number of cases continues to fall and the rest of the globe prepares for the end of the pandemic, health officials across the United States are beginning to stop daily Covid reporting in order to conserve resources. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to warn that it is too soon to write Covid out as a failed pharmaceutical.
This is part of a larger movement across the country of states rolling back pandemic-related protocols in preparation for ‘ending’ the pandemic and moving to a more endemic stage of the virus. South Dakota was the first state to officially end daily COVID-19 data reporting, and it is part of a larger movement across the country of states rolling back pandemic-related protocols in preparation for ‘ending’ the pandemic. Cases will now be reported once a week instead of twice.
As a result, Florida has joined the ranks of states such as Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina who have lately reduced their reliance on Covid reporting. Florida and Nebraska eliminated daily reporting last year, bringing the total number of states affected to ten.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, daily cases in the United States have continued to decline, falling 12 percent over the past week to 30,345 cases per day, and down 96 percent from the Omicron variant-fueled surge’s mid-January peak of over 800,000 cases per day.
However, there are some indications that the country’s recent fortunes may be about to change. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that global Covid instances have begun to rise in recent weeks, and New York – which frequently functions as a sort of canary in the coal mine for America’s Covid crisis – is beginning to witness an alarming surge in cases as well.
Many U.S. based health experts are hopeful that the nation will dodge a devastating Covid surge this spring, and potentially even summer, if the current situation holds up.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and board member at Pfizer, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that he expected cases to slightly increase in the coming weeks but not develop into a full blown Covid surge.
‘I don’t think we’re going to see a big wave of infection, but we’re going to see some uptick from where we are right now. Right now, we’re at very low levels of infection,’ he said.
America’s current daily infection rate is at its lowest point since last summer, and even slightly increases in cases will be manageable – if not expected – due to how favorable the situation is right now.
‘I think we’re going to continue to see low levels of infection through the summer,’ he added.
‘But before we get there, we’re probably going to see some tick-up of infection like the Europeans are seeing right now, maybe not as pronounced.’
The WHO reports that two weeks ago, Covid cases increased by eight percent globally, up to 11 million. This comes after weeks of falling case numbers.
The biggest jump was found in the Western Pacific region, where cases jumped 25 percent week-to-week. There was a 14 percent jump in Africa and two percent rise in Europe, as well.
European nations which often trend ahead of the U.S by a few months during the pandemic are among those to have experienced worrying rises. In the UK, cases have jumped around 40 percent over the past week, to 100,000 per day.
There are also a few early signs that this uptick in cases could find its way to America as well. New York has recorded a 17 percent increase in Covid infections over the past two weeks, the first state to record a substantial jump in nearly two months.
Manhattan, New York City’s largest population hub, has recorded a 17 percent increase over the past week as well, fueling the greater surge across the state.
The state is still under 1,000 cases per day, though, a very small total that pales in comparison to the nearly 40,000 case per day mark reached at the Omicron variant’s peak.
The WHO warns that these case rises are only the start of what could be a brutal spring season for parts of the world.
Margaret Harris, a WHO official, said at a news conference Friday that the pandemic is ‘far from over’ and that the world is still in the middle of it all.
‘These increase are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,’ Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said last week.
Recent rises in the U.S. and in much of the world are being fueled by the ‘stealth’ variant, or the BA.2 lineage of Omicron, as it is officially known.
The lineage is now dominant in the UK, Denmark and many other European nations, as it quickly was able to over take the BA.1 original version of the variant.
BA.2 has not been able to take hold in the U.S. the same way it did in much of Europe, though. According to most recent data revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, BA.2 makes up 23 percent of active Covid cases in the U.S., with BA.1 still being dominant.
The Omicron variant as a whole makes up every single sequenced case in the U.S., per the CDC, with the highly transmissive, vaccine-resistant, strain totally snuffing out the Delta variant this year.
BA.2’s share of Covid infections in America is rapidly growing, though, with the variant only accounting for 11 percent of sequenced cases last week, and only six percent the week previous that.
The BA.2 Omicron ‘stealth’ variant (pink) now makes up around 23% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, up from 11% last week and 6% the week before. The Omicron variant makes up every single sequence case in America
It is most prevalent in New Jersey and New York, and Northeastern regions of the U.S., accounting for around 40 percent of cases in both designated areas, explaining the recent surge in cases in the region.
The strain is not yet the dominant Covid strain anywhere in America, while it has taken over in many parts of Europe.
Gottlieb has a positive outlook on the rising strain. Experts believe that people who have been infected with the BA.1 strain of the variant should have natural immunity against BA.2, since both lineages are similar enough to each other, natural antibodies should provide cross-immunity.
‘What we know is that the immunity that you get from omicron is very protective against this BA.2 variant,’ Gottlieb told CNBC’s Squawk Box last week.
‘There’s no reason to believe the contours of this wave will be very different than BA.1 and probably less so because we have so much Omicron immunity.’
While the WHO is still issuing some grim warnings, a majority of signs point to the U.S. being fine this spring. The organization has been among the more cautious voices throughout the pandemic, and as a global organization its outlook includes areas beyond just the U.S. and western Europe.
America has an especially high vaccination rate, per CDC data. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 100 million have received a booster shot.
More jabs could be on the way as well, with Moderna submitting data to regulators last week to have a fourth vaccine dose approved for all U.S. adults. Pfizer, the company’s main competition in the U.S. vaccine rollout, also submitted data for a fourth shot for Americans 65 and older.
The nation’s Covid mortality rate is relatively low as well. America is averaging 1,054 deaths per day, a 13 percent drop over the past week