Despite the decline in cases here, a surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe has experts and health authorities on alert for another wave of the pandemic in the United States even as most of the country has done away with restrictions after the sharp decline in cases. Infectious-disease experts are closely watching the sub variant of omicron known as BA.2, which appears to be more transmissible than the original strain, BA.1, and is fueling the outbreak overseas. In all, about a dozen nations are seeing spikes in coronavirus infections caused by the BA.2 form of virus. A number of variables — including relaxed precautions against viral transmission, vaccination rates, the availability of anti-viral medications and natural immunity acquired by previous infection — may affect the course of any surge in the United States. Feeding concerns about another surge, a wastewater network that monitors for Covid-19 trends is warning that cases are once again rising in many parts of the U.S., according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by Bloomberg. More than a third of the CDC’s wastewater sample sites across the U.S. showed rising Covid-19 trends in the period ending March 1 to March 10, though reported cases have stayed near a recent low. The number of sites with rising signals of Covid-19 cases is nearly twice what it was during the Feb. 1 to Feb. 10 period, when the wave of omicron-variant cases was fading rapidly. Sewage can show the presence of Covid-19 about a week before PCR testing can. People who have been infected shed the virus in sewage pipes several days before they show symptoms, prompting a Covid-19 test.
During the peak of the Omicron wave, weekly hospitalizations for infants and toddlers due to COVID-19 were approximately five times what they were during the peak of the Delta variant, new research from the CDC showed. In the first week of January, COVID-associated hospitalizations in children ages 0-4 years reached 14.5 per 100,000 children according to the COVID-NET Surveillance Team in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Of those hospitalized during Omicron’s predominance, 63% had no underlying medical conditions. Infants younger than 6 months of age were hospitalized at six times the rate they were during the Delta variant’s predominance. During the two waves, hospitalizations in kids under 6 months of age accounted for 43% to 44% of all hospitalizations among children ages 0-4 years, according to the report. Although infants aged <6 months are not currently eligible for vaccination, evidence suggests that this age group can receive protection through passive transplacental transfer of maternal antibodies acquired through vaccination. CDC recommends that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant, or might become pregnant get vaccinated and stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.
Moderna asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow adults 18 and older to receive a second booster shot of the company’s mRNA vaccine amid concerns that immune protection from the vaccines wanes over time. Moderna’s application is substantially broader than what Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, sought earlier in the week — FDA authorization for a second booster shot for adults 65 and older. Studies and real-world data show that booster protection remains strong against severe illness and death but wanes against infections after several months. U.S. data so far shows that protection against severe illness remains robust four to five months after a booster, falling somewhat from 91 percent effectiveness in preventing severe illness to 78 percent. The decision from the FDA could come relatively quickly, especially if officials conclude the data is straightforward and does not have to be reviewed by a panel of outside vaccine experts. CDC advisers would then weigh in on who should be eligible for a second booster dose, and the CDC director would have the final say on those recommendations.
CSSE is reporting 79,705,070 positive cases in the U.S. and 970,554 deaths.