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Two years after first confirmed Covid in US, pandemic is worse than anybody might have imagined


People wait in line to be examined for COVID-19 at Union Station on January 7, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

A 35-year-old man returned to the US from Wuhan, China on January 15, 2020, and fell in poor health with cough and fever.

He had learn an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a couple of novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and sought remedy at an pressing care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, 4 days later.,

On January 21, the CDC publicly confirmed that it has first known case of coronavirus within the US, though the company would later discover out that the virus was Arrived on the West Coast in early December After checking blood samples for antibodies.

man mentioned he has No time spent at Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, the place a cluster of preliminary circumstances was recognized in December. He was admitted to the isolation unit at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., below commentary.

After Washington state confirmed the case, the CDC advised the general public it believed “the risk is low at this time.” The CDC mentioned there was rising proof of person-to-person transmission of the virus, however “it is not clear how easily this virus is spreading between people.”

Then President Donald Trump advised CNBC the U.S. It was “completely under control.”

“It’s a guy coming from China. We have it under control,” Trump advised “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernan in an interview on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It’s going to be okay. “

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci will confirm the public’s worst fear on January 31: People can carry and spread the virus without showing any symptoms. In the Seattle Flu Study, Dr. Helen Chu’s research team began examining genomic data from Wuhan. It quickly became clear that person-to-person transmission was occurring, Chu said. Using the flu study’s databank of nasal swab samples, the team was able to identify another COVID case in a 15-year-old man who had not traveled recently, indicating that it was spreading throughout the community. Was.

In late February, a senior CDC official, Dr Nancy Messonnier, warned that it was no longer possible to contain the virus at the country’s borders. There will be community spread in the US, she said, and the central question was “how many individuals on this nation may have critical sickness.”

In the two years since that first confirmed case, the virus has erupted in the US with a raging and duration somewhat anticipated tear. The human toll is staggering, with more than 860,000 people dead and total infections exceeding 69 million. Since August 2020, when the CDC began tracking hospitals, hospitals across the country have been pushed to breaking point with the admissions of more than 4 million confirmed COVID patients., Hospital admissions are a low number because they do not include the wave of cases that first hit the US in spring 2020 when hospitals were caught on flat feet and testing was inadequate.

Although the US now has effective vaccines and therapeutics to fight COVID, the future course of the pandemic remains uncertain as the virus mutates into new forms that are more transmissible and may evade vaccine protection., The highly contagious Omicron variant has pushed infections and hospitalizations higher across the world this month, a blow to an exhausted public that has been suffering from two years of lockdowns, event cancellations, working from home and masks and vaccines. Wants to return to normal life after the mandate.

The rapid evolution of the virus from alpha to delta and omicron, and dramatic waves of infection, came as a surprise to many elected leaders, public health officials and scientists. Dr. Michael Osterholm, a top epidemiologist, said that Covid mutations are the big unknown that will determine the future course of the pandemic.

“We do not but perceive how these sorts emerge and what they’re able to,” Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minnesota, told CNBC. “See how Omicron stunned us as a world group with speedy transmission, immune evasion. Look on the delta and its affect on illness severity,” he said.

As new infections began to decline in the spring of 2021 and vaccines became widely available, the US began to ramp up its defenses. The CDC said that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors. President Joe Biden It was announced on July 4 that the US was closer than ever to declaring independence from the virus.

However, the delta version was taking hold in the US at the time and would soon lead to a new wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths as vaccination rates slowed. Public health leaders have struggled for months to persuade skeptics to get the shot.

According to CDC data, more than a year after the first vaccine was administered in the US, about 67% of Americans over the age of 5 have been fully vaccinated. Millions of Americans still haven’t received their shots, despite the fact that data has shown them to be safe and effective in preventing serious illness and death.

“We did not imply in January of 2020, the divisive politics and group backlash that was going to occur,” Osterholm said. “Who would have imagined the type of vaccine hesitation and animosity that has taken place.”

Delta was more than twice as transmissible than the previous variant, and research indicated that it caused more severe disease in people who were not vaccinated. The CDC will reverse its lax mask guidance and encourage everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in public in areas of substantial transmission as the delta spread.

Vaccines came as a shock when Omicron emerged in November. Although they still protect against serious illness and death, they are less effective at preventing infection than Omicron. Chu said the US relies primarily on vaccines to prevent transmission of the virus without equally emphasizing widespread masking and testing, which are critical to controlling a type like Omicron that can protect against immunity. can be saved.

“We now know that, proportionally, you may get contaminated repeatedly, you possibly can have vaccine success, and this virus will simply maintain mutating and proceed to flee us for a very long time,” Chu said.

Katrina Shea co-leads team of researchers which bring together models to predict the trajectory of the pandemic. In its latest update, the Omicron wave of cases and hospitalizations is likely to peak before the end of the month. However, his most optimistic estimate shows anywhere from 16,000 to 98,000 additional deaths from the Omicron wave by April 2.

Currently, the US is reporting an average of over 736,000 new infections per day, According to a seven-day average of Johns Hopkins data analyzed by CNBC, While this is still far higher than in previous waves, the average daily infections are down 8% compared to the previous week. The US is reporting more than 1,800 deaths per day as an average of seven days.

“It’s actually, actually disappointing and unhappy to see individuals die from a vaccine-preventable illness,” Chu said.

The implications of Omicron for the future course of the pandemic are unclear. In the classic approach, viruses evolve to become more transmissible and less severe, making it easier to find new hosts.

Xi, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, said, “There are many causes to imagine that this is probably not true as a result of Omicron’s leap was so huge, exhibiting that it has numerous room to alter dramatically. ” Omicron has more than 30 mutations on the spike proteins that bind to human cells. The shots target the spike protein, and the mutations make it more difficult for the vaccine-induced antibodies to prevent infection.

Doctors and infectious disease experts in South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, said the variant peaked and began to decline rapidly, demonstrating a significantly different trajectory than previous strains. The researchers also said Steve Biko Academic Hospital had a low number of ICU admissions and deaths, indicating a decrease in severity.

“If this pattern continues and is replicated globally, we are likely to see a complete breakdown of case and mortality rates, suggesting that omicrons are beginning their endemic phase, the epidemiological phase of the COVID pandemic. may be a harbinger of the end,” the researchers wrote.

Over time, the virus could grow to be much less disruptive to society as mutations decelerate and grow to be milder as extra immunity within the inhabitants limits extreme illness, in response to Jenny Lavin, a computational investigation biologist on the biotech firm Carius.

However, the top of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cautioned earlier this week that the pandemic is “nowhere to end,” warning that as new omicrons unfold quickly the world over. types are prone to emerge.

“Everybody wants to have this thing called endemic. I still don’t know what that means,” Osterholm mentioned, noting that he has 46 years of expertise as an epidemiologist, “With the variant, we can go for a short period of time with relatively little activity, as we’ve seen in many places in the world, and then a new variant can turn up overnight. We really don’t know its future yet. don’t understand.”


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