US concerned with new surge of Covid-19 despite fall of deaths

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There is wide concern in the US that another wave of Covid-19 is lurking somewhere ahead over the looming dominance of the BA.2 subvariant, though figures and rates currently give some reason for optimism, according to reports by major news media.

The data analysis of The New York Times (NYT) showed that the seven-day average new Covid-19 deaths on March 24 in the US went down to 830, a minus 36 per cent change over a period of 14 days. New coronavirus cases were 30,387, recording a minus 15 per cent change, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, experts are watching for a potential new Covid-19 surge in the US and wondering how long it will take to detect, as some recent developments don’t bode well, The Associate Press reported on Friday, citing that fewer people are getting the gold-standard tests that the government relies on for case counts and health officials are increasingly focusing on hospital admissions, which rise only after a surge has arrived.

In addition, a wastewater surveillance program remains a patchwork that cannot yet be counted on for the data needed to understand coming surges, and White House officials say the government is running out of funds for vaccines, treatment and testing, according to the report.

With another pandemic surge possibly on the way, vaccination for the coronavirus in the US has all but ground to a halt, with initial doses and boosters plummeting to the lowest levels since the program began in late December 2020, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

On Wednesday, the seven-day average of vaccinations fell to fewer than 182,000 per day, lower than at any time since the first days of the program.

“The daily total has been in free fall for the past six weeks” and “the low rates have long caused concern among some experts,” said the report.

Now, with authorities bracing for a possible increase in Covid-19 cases caused by the BA.2 subvariant, 65.4 per cent of Americans are fully vaccinated and just 44 per cent have received a booster shot. That is substantially less than the totals in many Western European nations, it added.

Meanwhile, “vaccine hesitancy likely already accounts for tens of billions of dollars in preventable US hospitalisation costs and up to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, say public health experts,” Reuters reported on Friday, noting that for individuals forgoing vaccination, the risks can include layoffs and ineligibility to collect unemployment, higher insurance premiums, growing out-of-pocket medical costs or loss of academic scholarships.

Amid wide concern that the vaccination campaign has been lagging and another surge of coronavirus is possible, the calls are still unabated for the federal government to loosen its Covid-19 restrictions, especially from the sectors that involve movements of large groups of people.

On Wednesday, airline executives, including chief executives of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines, urged US President Joe Biden in a letter to end the federal mask mandate and other coronavirus travel requirements, which they said “are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment.” The mask rule was recently extended to April 18.

The letter said “the high level of immunity in the US, availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirement. We urge you to do so now.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this March that it would work alongside agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, to determine warranted changes to the rule, noting that “this revised framework will be based on the Covid-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data and the latest science.”

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