POST 245. April 10, 2022. CORONAVIRUS. We can’t react to a wave we don’t see coming. “I keep thinking back to this idea of If we don’t measure it, it won’t happen,”…(As President Donald Trump once put it, “If we stop testing, we’d have fewer cases.”) In reality, “it’s very well happening, and we just don’t see it yet.”

for links to POSTS 1-245 in chronological order, highlight and click on

“With masks no longer required and mitigation measures seen by some as a thing of the past, a coronavirus resurgence is spreading among the tight circles of the Washington elite.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the latest high-profile Washington dignitary to test positive for COVID-19…

Pelosi’s positive test comes amid a flurry of other positive cases among individuals who attended the elite Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington on Saturday.

As of midday Thursday, at least 32 guests at Saturday’s dinner have tested positive for COVID-19, Tom DeFrank, the president of the Gridiron Club, told ABC News.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Jamal Simmons, the communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, were among the guests at the dinner who announced this week that they have tested positive.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of two Republican lawmakers to attend the dinner, also announced late Thursday she tested positive…

Pelosi attended an event at the White House on Tuesday where she interacted with former President Barack Obama, who tested positive last month, as well as Biden. She also attended an event at the White House Wednesday where she again interacted with Biden. She was maskless at both events, as were other attendees.

Asked about Biden’s contact with Pelosi, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said Biden tested negative on Wednesday night and insisted Biden wasn’t a CDC “close contact” because they weren’t within 6 feet for 15 minutes…

The District of Columbia in February officially ended its district-wide mask mandate. The White House and the U.S. Capitol quickly followed suit to make face coverings optional.

The district is currently at a “low” community level for COVID-19, per CDC standards.” (A)

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that he thinks there will be an uptick in cases of Covid-19 over the next few weeks and that it is likely that there could be a surge in the fall.

“I think we should expect, David, that over the next couple of weeks, we are going to see an uptick in cases — and hopefully there is enough background immunity so that we don’t wind up with a lot of hospitalizations,”…

Fauci reiterated that the US often follows other countries, offering the UK, which also has the BA.2 variant, as an example. He said that as well as a pullback on many mask mandates and restrictions for indoor settings, there has been a waning of immunity.

“Those conditions are also present in the United States,” he said. “So, I would not be surprised if we see an uptick in cases. Whether that uptick becomes a surge where there are a lot more cases is difficult to predict.”..

“I would think that we should expect that we are going to see some increase in cases as you get to the colder weather in the fall,” he said. “That’s the reason why the [Food and Drug Administration] and their advisory committee are meeting right now to plan a strategy, and we at the [National Institutes of Health] are doing studies now to determine what the best boost would be.” (B)

“In the latest battle of the coronavirus mutants, an extra-contagious version of omicron has taken over the world.

The coronavirus version known as BA.2 is now dominant in at least 68 countries, including the United States.

The World Health Organization says it makes up about 94% of sequenced omicron cases submitted to an international coronavirus database in the most recent week. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it was responsible for 72% of new U.S. infections last week…

BA.2 has lots of mutations. It’s been dubbed “stealth omicron” because it lacks a genetic quirk of the original omicron that allowed health officials to rapidly differentiate it from the delta variant using a certain PCR test.

One reason BA.2 has gained ground, scientists say, is that it’s about 30% more contagious than the original omicron. In rare cases, research shows it can sicken people even if they’ve already had an omicron infection — although it doesn’t seem to cause more severe disease…

Besides being more contagious, it’s spreading at a time when governments are relaxing restrictions designed to control COVID-19. Also, people are taking off their masks and getting back to activities such as traveling, eating indoors at restaurants and attending crowded events.

At this point, overall coronavirus cases in the U.S. are still on the decline. But there have been upticks in some places, including New York, Arizona and Illinois. Health officials have also noted that case counts are getting more unreliable because of the wide availability of home tests and the fact some people are no longer getting tested.

“We’re entering a phase where increasing cases or waves may be very regional and it may depend a lot on vaccination levels in the community — and not just vaccination levels but timing of the vaccinations,” Long said. “How long ago were they? Did people get boosters? Because we know the immunity to the vaccine wanes a little bit over time.”

Long said he feels “very certain” that cases will eventually go back up in the U.S., whether that’s because of BA.2 or some future variant. “If it’s BA.2,” he said, “it may be more of a wave or a speed bump than a surge.”

For now, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still trending down nationally.

As the coronavirus continues to evolve, the WHO is tracking other mutants, including hybrids known as “recombinants.”

These include combinations of delta and omicron and hybrids of BA.2 and the original omicron, also known as BA.1.

One recombinant that health authorities are tracking closely is a BA.1-BA.2 hybrid called XE, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in January. About 600 cases have been reported, and scientists believe it may be about 10% more contagious than BA.2.” (M)

“Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently addressed confusion about who needs a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot.

The news: Walensky told NBC News that people who received the two COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as a booster, do not need to get a fourth shot if they’ve been infected by the omicron variant.

“If you’ve had omicron disease in the last two or three months, that really did boost your immune system quite well,” Walensky said.

She said those individuals can wait two to four months for a second booster (or fourth overall shot).

She added that there are no safety issues associated with another booster shot.

She hinted that another booster shot may be needed in the fall.

The bigger picture: There is still some ongoing discourse about whether a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot is effective at stopping the coronavirus, the Deseret News’ Ashley Nash writes.

Experts are concerned that it will be difficult to keep up with so many booster shots.

Others argue that boosters that target specific variants may be needed in the future.” (G)

“It is likely the case that there will be a recommendation for a booster in the fall,” Walensky said. “We don’t know exactly what that looks like, but we do want to make sure that people are aware of that because if they’re only going to get one boost, that may be the one to get. It may not be the same booster as we have right now.”

Walensky said a second booster is crucial for people in high-risk categories who got their first one more than four months ago. They include people who are over 65 and those who have comorbidities that put them at high risk of severe illness if they catch the coronavirus. If another booster is authorized for fall, Walensky urges those eligible to get it, though she acknowledged some people are reluctant about getting repeated shots.

“Many people are fully amenable to getting a boost right now and as well getting a boost in the fall because they really want to bolster their protection as much as possible,” she said. “For those people, if you’re over the age of 50, I would definitely encourage you to get it.”

Federal and state health officials have expressed concern that a new surge may take hold in the fall, which happened in 2020 and 2021 as the cold weather forced people indoors. November and December holidays — often marked with large gatherings — further add to the potential for a new variant to spread and again overwhelm hospitals.

In the interview, Walensky said that the nation’s public health infrastructure was poorly equipped to respond to the pandemic and other crises.

“People have failed to realize that when we started in this pandemic, we had a public health infrastructure that was frail and was underinvested in for years,” she said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve had H1N1, Zika, Ebola and now COVID, but we in the United States have eliminated 66,000 public health jobs and we’ve lost 10% of public health funding….

Our data systems don’t talk to each other. We have no standard way in which those data are collected across different jurisdictions. We have over 3,000 jurisdictions from whom we receive data at the CDC. We really need to swiftly receive that data and feed it back to the states and jurisdictions.

And then finally, we need a laboratory infrastructure. We scaled up the genomic sequencing that we do, to tens of thousands of sequences a week. We now need places to do those sequences. CDC can’t do them all. We need to make sure we have sequencing capacity in many of our jurisdictions.” (C)

“A fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine seems to offer short-lived protection against infection overall, but protection against severe illness did not wane for at least several weeks, according to a new study.

The study, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the health records of more than 1.25 million vaccinated people in Israel who were 60 or older from January through March 2022, a time when the Omicron coronavirus variant was the dominant strain.

The rate of severe Covid-19 infection in the fourth week after a fourth dose of vaccine was lower than in people who got only three doses by a factor of 3.5.

However, protection against severe illness did not seem to wane in the six weeks after the fourth shot, though the study period wasn’t long enough to determine exactly how long this protection lasts.

The rate of confirmed infection in the fourth week after the fourth dose was lower than in the three-dose group by a factor of 2. There seemed to be maximum protection against Omicron in the fourth week after vaccination, but the rate ratio fell to 1.1 by the eighth week, suggesting that “protection against confirmed infection wanes quickly,” the study says.

The protection provided by any vaccine naturally wanes, but a vaccine primes the immune system to make protective antibodies if it encounters threats later on.” (H)

“At first glance, the maps on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 Integrated County View web page look great. As of April 7, most of the U.S. was in the green, with green representing “low Covid-19 Community Levels in US by County.” It almost makes it seem like people don’t have to worry about the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) any more. After all, when you are told that the risk of anything is low whether it’s getting a disease, being attacked by lemurs at a restaurant, or falling face first into some quiche, you tend to not take precautions.

However, some health experts have expressed concerns that such maps and measures may be misleading. For example, Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted the following:

As you can see, Topol called a CDC tweet and the accompanying “County-level Covid-19 Community Levels” map “misleading.” He added that it “will give BA.2 more chance to spread.” This is presumably because Americans may take it as false reassurance that Covid-19 is no longer a threat and thus become too lax about Covid-19 precautions. In other words, it could lead to premature relaxation. Premature relaxation of Covid-19 precautions? Gee, when has that ever happened before?

Both Jonathan S. Reiner, MD, a Professor of Medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Jason L. Salemi, PhD, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, pointed out the differences between the green-appearing Covid-19 Community Levels map and the multi-colored CDC Covid-19 Community Transmission map:

The Community Levels U.S. map may look like a giant green light whereas the Community Transmission one looks more like the background of a “Where’s Waldo” picture. Speaking of “Where’s Waldo,” Reiner pointed out that the Community Transmission maps “are not so easy to find on the CDC website.” Contrast that with the fact that the CDC tweeted out the Community Levels map without providing the Community Transmission maps alongside. Moreover, the Community Levels web site is what comes up first on Google searches…

The rush to return to normal, whatever “normal” means, and the repeated premature relaxation of Covid-19 precautions has continued to be remarkably short-sighted. The SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t really care what politicians and business leaders say. Failing to maintain proper Covid-19 precautions such as face mask use, social distancing, and Covid-19 vaccination could further extend the pandemic and increase the negative impact of the SARS-CoV-2. This is especially true with the more contagious BA.2 Omicron subvariant spreading. The CDC Covid-19 Community Levels map alone may have you seeing green as in low risk, go, go, go, and perhaps even mo’ money. But that could end up being an “off-color” conclusion.” (N)

“US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced a sweeping review of the nation’s lead public health agency Monday.

The review will evaluate the CDC’s structure, systems and processes, Walensky told CDC staff in an email…

“At the conclusion of this collective effort, we will develop new systems and processes to deliver our science and program to the American people, along with a plan for how CDC should be structured to facilitate the public health work we do,” Walensky wrote.

In a statement, the CDC said that during the past year, it “has worked to speed up data reporting and scientific processes throughout its pandemic response. Work is needed to institutionalize and formalize these approaches and to find new ways to adapt the agency’s structure to the changing environment.”

Walensky said in the statement, “Never in its 75 years history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time, and evolving science. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented opportunities across HHS to review current organizational structures, systems, and processes, and CDC is working to strategically position and modernize the agency to facilitate and support the future of public health. As we’ve challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future.

“This work will allow CDC to develop new systems and processes to deliver science and program activities to the American people, with a keen focus on the agency’s core capabilities — public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid response to disease outbreaks, and preparedness within the US and around the world.”” (D)

“Countries that once led the world in coronavirus monitoring are now scaling back, leaving the world less prepared to spot future variants, experts said.

The British government on Friday shut down or scaled back a number of its Covid surveillance programs, curtailing the collection of data that the United States and many other countries had come to rely on to understand the threat posed by emerging variants and the effectiveness of vaccines. Denmark, too, renowned for insights from its comprehensive tests, has drastically cut back on its virus tracking efforts in recent months.

As more countries loosen their policies toward living with Covid rather than snuffing it out, health experts worry that monitoring systems will become weaker, making it more difficult to predict new surges and to make sense of emerging variants.

“Things are going to get harder now,” Samuel Scarpino, a managing director at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute, said. “And right as things get hard, we’re dialing back the data systems.”

Since the Alpha variant emerged in the fall of 2020, Britain has served as a bellwether, tracking that variant as well as Delta and Omicron before they arrived in the United States. After a slow start, American genomic surveillance efforts have steadily improved with a modest increase in funding…

At the start of the pandemic, Britain was especially well prepared to set up a world-class virus tracking program. The country was already home to many experts on virus evolution, it had large labs ready to sequence viral genes, and it could link that sequencing to electronic records from its National Health Service.

In March 2020, British researchers created a consortium to sequence as many viral genomes as they could lay hands on. Some samples came from tests that people took when they felt ill, others came from hospitals, and still others came from national surveys.

That last category was especially important, experts said. By testing hundreds of thousands of people at random each month, the researchers could detect new variants and outbreaks among people who didn’t even know they were sick, rather than waiting for tests to come from clinics or hospitals…

On Friday, two of the country’s routine virus surveys were shut down and a third was scaled back, baffling Dr. Fraser and many other researchers, particularly when those surveys now show that Britain’s Covid infection rates are estimated to have reached a record high: one in 13 people. The government also stopped paying for free tests, and either canceled or paused contact-tracing apps and sewage sampling programs.

“I don’t understand what the strategy is, to put together these very large instruments and then dismantle them,” Dr. Fraser said.

The cuts have come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for Britain to “learn to live with this virus.” When the government released its plans in February, it pointed to the success of the country’s vaccination program and the high costs of various virus programs. Although it would be scaling back surveillance, it said, “the government will continue to monitor cases, in hospital settings in particular, including using genomic sequencing, which will allow some insights into the evolution of the virus.”” (E)

“CNN: Will everyone need a Covid-19 shot every year?

Dr. Leana Wen: We don’t know yet. There are a lot of variables here, and only time — and ongoing research — will tell.

First, we don’t know how long the immune protection from the vaccine and first booster will last. There is a lot of evidence that the first booster is very important. During a time when Omicron was the dominant variant, the effectiveness of three doses against severe disease remained high, at 94%, according to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If this protection starts waning substantially, that would be a sign that another booster is needed.

Second, there may be new variants that develop over time. The influenza vaccine is given annually after it’s reconfigured every year for new mutations. The current vaccines work well against the Omicron subvariants, but if there are future variants that evade vaccine-induced immunity, that’s another reason for additional vaccinations.

Third, we need to monitor for how prevalent Covid-19 is. Right now, it is still rampant throughout the world, but if it ends up fading, regular booster doses may not be needed. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said to CNN, “Will it ultimately get to such a low level that we might not even need a boost every year?” That’s possible, but we don’t know yet.

Fourth, we need to see whether there is a clear seasonality to future Covid-19 outbreaks. Other coronaviruses that cause the common cold are more prevalent in the winter, as are other respiratory viruses like RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza. It’s likely that SARS-CoV-2 is, too, and there have been surges during winter months. This part, though, still needs to be seen in this coming fall and winter seasons.

Finally, there are logistical considerations to think about. Adding an annual vaccine is a big undertaking. The uptake of the influenza vaccine is already low; just only about half of Americans get it every year. With the misinformation and polarization around Covid-19, encouraging this level of frequency will be a big undertaking.” (F)

“While the currently available COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in protecting people from serious disease, public health experts still face a handful of important questions about the shots and their ability to continue to protect against the virus in coming years. Will a new version of the vaccine be more effective? How long does protection last? Are boosters the only way to extend that protection? Is there a better, more coordinated way to give vaccines and boosters to maximize immunity in the face of an ever-changing virus?

Those were the discussion topics that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee addressed in a day-long virtual meeting on April 6. The 28-member committee of independent experts reviewed the available data on vaccine effectiveness and tried to lay the foundation for maximizing the effect of vaccines in curbing COVID-19.

Because public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and regulators at the FDA are still learning about how the virus works, and what type of immunity is needed to control it, the U.S.’s vaccination strategy has relied on a game of catch-up: chasing after waves of infections first with the primary vaccinations and then with booster doses to keep those waves from cresting and overwhelming the health care system with sick patients.

For now, the vaccination schedule is a complicated algorithm depending on which vaccine people get, as well as their age and health status…

The complex guidelines in part led the FDA to call its committee together in order to come up with a more systematic and effective vaccination strategy moving forward. Currently, 70% of the U.S. population that is eligible to get vaccinated has received their primary immunization—two doses of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or one dose from Johson&Johnson-Janssen. Only about 50% of this group has received a booster dose.

In addition to the confusing recommendations, studies show that the immunity provided by the vaccines, including the boosters, wanes. The panel heard from CDC scientists, who reported that in studies in which blood serum from people who are fully vaccinated with their primary doses was mixed with the Omicron variant, there was a 25-fold drop in antibodies that could neutralize that variant; among those who were boosted, there was still a 6-fold drop in that neutralization activity.

That means the current booster strategy isn’t sustainable, so the committee discussed ways to establish a more structured plan for studying vaccine effectiveness and making decisions about whether, and when to change the shots or boosters…

The current policy of responding to COVID-19 waves with another booster dose “will not get us what we ultimately want, which is basically a vaccine that is more durable and more cross-protective,” says Rouphael. Most of the panel members agreed that a vaccine that targets multiple strains at once, which could also provide longer lasting immunity, might be the logical next step in the COVID-19 vaccination strategy.

The committee also stressed that rather than waiting for the pharmaceutical companies to dictate what shots they are developing, as has been the case so far, the FDA should play a more active role. “Now we have the manufacturers coming to us with proposals for how to evaluate the composition and strain of the vaccines,” said Jerry Weir, director of viral products in the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research. “What about the idea that we better coordinate in advance what studies need to be done to inform strain selection?”  (I)

“Researchers trying to devise an updated coronavirus vaccine for use this fall would have to settle on a formula as early as June to meet that deadline, federal officials said on Wednesday, even though some clinical trials are just now getting underway.

The assessment came during a daylong meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration, who convened to strategize about what the nation’s coronavirus vaccine policy should look like moving forward. The session underscored how deeply the road ahead is studded with uncertainties.

Among the most basic questions debated: At what point would officials decide that the existing vaccines are not working well enough? And if better vaccines are deemed necessary, when might clinical trials provide answers about suitable replacements?

The meeting captured a transition point for the Biden administration as it tries to fashion a vaccine strategy for the rest of this year. Some federal health officials are convinced that the existing vaccines need to be retooled to offer better protection than they do now. They hope to have a revised version by the fall, when they fear the virus could resurge in force.

Doses of modified vaccine could cost the federal government about $5 billion to $12 billion, one senior federal official said. Congress has moved to slice the administration’s new Covid budget request roughly in half, which the official said might not leave enough to cover that cost.

At the same time, vaccine manufacturers and federal researchers are scrambling to figure out what a revised vaccine should look like. A new study by the National Institutes of Health, for example, is analyzing how Moderna’s vaccine works if revised to target three different variants, alone or in combination. But it only just began recruiting volunteers, with results expected sometime this summer.

Robert Johnson, the director of an infectious disease division within the Department of Health and Human Services, told the panel that even once regulators decide upon a reconfigured vaccine, manufacturers would need several months to produce doses.

“If you’re not on your way to that clinical trial by the beginning of May, it is very difficult to have collectively across manufacturers enough product to meet that demand” by fall, he said. Dr. Peter Marks, who oversees vaccine regulation at the F.D.A., also described the time frame as highly compressed, saying regulators may need to settle on a new vaccine formula by May or June if they want to switch from the existing ones.

The trials underway are too small to provide efficacy data of the type that led to the authorization of the existing vaccines. But they could produce enough data for federal health officials to determine whether a reconfigured vaccine will create a stronger or more lasting immune response — a metric used to infer efficacy.

Expert after expert at the meeting described how much guesswork is involved in that effort. No one knows which variant of the virus will dominate in the fall, when federal officials consider a new surge highly likely. There is some chance that before then, another variant like Omicron will emerge and redraw the coronavirus picture in a wholly unexpected way. “Not likely, but it’s there,” Dr. Marks said of that possibility.

Trevor Bedford, a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said the coronavirus had been mutating at several times the rate of the flu virus, for which vaccines are redesigned annually. While that pace may slow, the virus’s plasticity indicates it “is likely to keep on evolving,” he said.

How exactly it will do that is anyone’s guess. “There’s no guarantee that every emergent variant is going to be the basis for the next variant,” warned Dr. Michael Nelson, an immunologist at the University of Virginia Medical School.

Meanwhile, federal officials and their outside advisers continue to grapple with what the threshold is for determining that existing vaccines are not doing a good enough job. The committee’s consensus appeared to be that Covid vaccines should prevent severe disease, not necessarily infection or mild disease.”  (J)

“A bipartisan $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental is stuck in the Senate amid a dispute over a tangential pandemic-related border control policy, with both parties at a loss on how the impasse will be resolved.

“I don’t see a pathway,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., who helped negotiate the bill, said Wednesday.

The stalemate over the so-called Title 42 policy put the final nail in the coffin for action on the supplemental this week ahead of a scheduled two-week recess, absent a move from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to cancel the break and hold senators in town until they reach a deal.

But both parties acknowledged delaying the recess won’t resolve the issue and thus senators would be allowed to go home or on previously scheduled foreign trips after the Senate votes on confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

“We have to have willing partners and a way to do this,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a member of Democratic leadership, said.

Senate Republicans are filibustering the supplemental, which would redirect $10 billion in unspent pandemic relief funds from prior laws to the Department of Health and Human Services to buy more therapeutics, vaccines and testing supplies and prepare for future virus variants, because they want to be able to offer amendments.

Specifically the entire Republican Conference has united behind an effort to secure a vote on still-unspecified language that would prevent the Biden administration from ending the Title 42 public health directive that has allowed border patrol agents to prevent asylum-seeking migrants from entering the United States…

Democratic leaders typically don’t mind giving Republicans amendment votes in exchange for their cooperation in speeding up passage of bills if the amendments are partisan and guaranteed to be rejected. But as Manchin’s support shows, a Title 42 amendment would be adopted if allowed a vote under a simple majority.

The only other obvious solution would be to raise the threshold for adopting a Title 42 amendment to 60 votes. But if the amendment is germane to the underlying bill — and Republicans have said their goal is to draft Title 42 language in consultation with the parliamentarian that is — both parties would need to agree to set a 60-vote threshold, something Republicans have no intention of doing.

Even a 60-vote threshold is risky, depending on the amendment language, given the number of Senate Democrats who have said the administration should not prematurely end Title 42 without a longer-term plan to secure the border…

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Wednesday that the U.S. supply of monoclonal antibodies to fight COVID-19 infections will run out “as soon as late May.” Testing manufacturing capacity, she said, “will begin ramping down at the end of June.” (L)

“If the United States has been riding a COVID-19 ’coaster for the past two-plus years, New York and a flush of states in the Northeast have consistently been seated in the train’s front car. And right now, in those parts of the country, coronavirus cases are, once again, going up. The rest of America may soon follow, now that BA.2—the more annoying, faster-spreading sister of the original Omicron variant, BA.1—has overtaken its sibling to become the nation’s dominant version of SARS-CoV-2.

Technologically and immunologically speaking, Americans should be well prepared to duel a new iteration of SARS-CoV-2, with two years of vaccines, testing, treatment, masking, ventilation, and distancing know-how in hand. Our immunity from BA.1 is also relatively fresh, and the weather’s rapidly warming. In theory, the nation could be poised to stem BA.2’s inbound tide, and make this variant’s cameo our least devastating to date.

But theory, at this point, seems unlikely to translate into practice. As national concern for COVID withers, the country’s capacity to track the coronavirus is on a decided downswing. Community test sites are closing, and even the enthusiasm for at-home tests, whose results usually aren’t reported, seems to be on a serious wane; even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a new deal on domestic pandemic funding, those patterns could stick. Testing and case reporting are now so “abysmal” that we’re losing sight of essential transmission trends, says Jessica Malaty Rivera, a research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s so bad that I could never look at the data and make any informed choice.” Testing is how individuals, communities, and experts stay on top of where the virus is and whom it’s affecting; it’s also one of the main bases of the CDC’s new guidance on when to mask up again. Without it, the nation’s ability to forecast whatever wave might come around next is bound to be clouded.

We can’t react to a wave we don’t see coming. “I keep thinking back to this idea of If we don’t measure it, it won’t happen,” says Shweta Bansal, an infectious-disease modeler at Georgetown University. (As President Donald Trump once put it, “If we stop testing, we’d have fewer cases.”) In reality, “it’s very well happening, and we just don’t see it yet.” There is still no guarantee that the next wave is nigh—but if it is, the U.S. is poorly positioned to meet it. Americans’ motivational tanks are near empty; the country’s stance has, for months, been pretty much whatevs. The next wave may be less a BA.2 wave, and more a so what? wave—one many Americans care little to see, because, after two years of crisis, they care so little to respond…

Colloquially, epidemiologically, a wave is a pretty squishy term, a “know it when you see it” notion that gets subjective, fast. “There is no technical definition,” says C. Brandon Ogbunu, a mathematical modeler studying infectious-disease dynamics at Yale. And with COVID-19, there’s no consensus among experts on exactly when waves begin or end, or how sharp or tall one must be to count.” (O)


“Two years after the coronavirus became the focus of all of my coverage as a science reporter for The Times (and all of my thoughts every waking hour), it happened: I tested positive for the virus.

My case was mostly mild, as the virus generally is for any healthy 40-something individual. But the experience nevertheless gave me perspective I would not have gained from reading scientific papers or interviewing experts.

Over the past two years, I have written hundreds of articles about the coronavirus — about asymptomatic infections, tests, our body’s immune defenses, breakthrough infections and boosters. I was interviewed myself dozens of times to answer questions about the disease, the pandemic and the U.S. response to the virus.

But all along, my relationship with the virus stayed academic, impersonal. Even when the Delta variant swept through India and I lay sleepless, worrying about my parents, it was still not quite at my door…

I’ve written about many diseases — H.I.V., tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, polio — that I’ve never had. I could have done without this experience of getting Covid. I’m not worried about these symptoms persisting for too long — vaccination significantly cuts the risk of so-called long Covid — but I’m still inordinately fond of naps.

I’m thankful to have gained a richer, broader immune defense to the virus. But mostly, I am glad to have a deeper understanding of what our readers have been experiencing.” (K)


The CORONAVIRUS CONTENT TRACKING PROJECT was started over two years ago.

PART 1. January 21, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday confirmed the first U.S. case of a deadly new coronavirus that has killed six people in China.”

In February, 2022  around the time of POST 235, “DOCTOR” tested positive!


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