The U.S. is still experiencing a significant fall in COVID numbers following Omicron’s disastrous winter surge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infections have decreased by more than 16 percent in just the last week, with hospitalizations down by over 27 percent as well. But as much as we’re all hopeful that this decline will continue, virus experts aren’t so sure. Cases are already rising again in other countries, particularly those in Western Europe, largely thanks to a new subvariant of Omicron—and the U.S. could likely follow.
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As another potential COVID wave looms on the horizon, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, is urging people in the U.S. to get prepared for cases to start going back up soon. “I would not be surprised at all, if we do see somewhat of an uptick,” Fauci said during a March 22 Washington Post Live event.
COVID trends in the U.S. tend to follow the pattern of those in the U.K. “by a few weeks lag,” Fauci said. He added that cases are rising in other countries for three reasons that the U.S. shares: a rise in the BA.2 variant, a relaxation of virus restrictions, and waning immunity from vaccination. But despite the inevitability of an increase in infections, the infectious disease expert said he hopes that the uptick won’t be accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations.
To prevent that potential severity, Fauci warned that more fully vaccinated people need to be boosted. If you are vaccinated and eligible for a booster but have not gotten your additional dose yet, “please get yourself boosted,” Fauci said. “Because there’s no doubt that when you compare hospitalizations among unvaccinated compared to vaccinated and booster, there’s an extraordinary degree of difference, much, much more heavily weighted towards the unvaccinated.”
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According to the CDC, only 50 percent of the U.S. population is considered to be “up to date” on their COVID vaccines, which the agency now defines as the initial vaccination and a booster. In terms of severity, the CDC also says that adults who received three doses of a COVID vaccine are 94 percent less likely to be put on a ventilator or die from the virus compared to unvaccinated adults.
“From a standpoint of the percentage of the population that is vaccinated, the UK is better than we are,” Fauci admitted. “We have now about 65 percent of the total population fully vaccinated. We have about 75 or so percent having received at least one dose. The issue is that we have about 50 percent of the people who are eligible to be boosted, have not yet gotten boosted. So we could do much better in mitigating against any effects of this upsurge.”
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