Virus is "Out of Control" in These Areas Now, Experts Warn
Deja vu seems to be endemic to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the U.S. began to consider itself potentially out of the woods after this winter's Omicron surge—with cases down more than 90% from their peak, many restrictions have been relaxed nationwide—a more contagious Omicron subvariant, BA.2, has led to huge spikes overseas. And this week, officials reported there are signs that BA.2 is making inroads on our shores. These are the areas where COVID is widespread, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins, the United Kingdom reported 93,943 new COVID cases on Wednesday, more than double the 45,303 recorded two weeks earlier. Eight out of ten boroughs in England saw caseloads increase by 50% or more compared to the previous week. But the UK is still proceeding with plans announced last month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to drop most COVID restrictions and phase into "living with" the virus.
Last Friday, Germany recorded more than 250,000 new cases (their total population is 83 million). Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called the situation "critical." But like the UK, Germany is still allowing most coronavirus restrictions to lapse this week.
Hong Kong has experienced its worst COVID outbreak of the pandemic this month, logging 900 cases per 100,000 residents in early March. (New York City previously held the global record, with 500 cases per 100,000 residents in January.) Death rates have also skyrocketed. Experts say this is due to a variety of factors: A low vaccination rate among the elderly, a less effective primary vaccine (Sinovac vaccine), high-density living conditions, and a low previous COVID infection rate, which conferred less immunity among the population.
The Northeast U.S.
According to CDC data, last week BA.2 accounted for 23.1 percent of new COVID infections in the U.S, up from 13.7 percent the previous week. But more than 38 percent of cases were BA.2 in parts of the Northeast.
This week, wastewater analyses found that COVID rates are ticking back up in various parts of the U.S.—including Boston, San Francisco, and North Carolina—indicating "a COVID surge in the United States may be just a week or two away," KPIX 5 reported on Tuesday. "Right on our shores, we see a tsunami heading our way," Dr. John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley Public Health told the station. "When the amount of virus in wastewater goes up, that's the time to really start to worry about the fact that in one week, two weeks or three weeks, we may see cases starting to go up."
A Cause for "Concern, Not Panic"
Experts say the advent of BA.2 is a cause for "concern, not panic," the New York Times reported this week. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said about 35,000 cases of BA.2 have been reported in the US but noted "the tools we have — including mRNA vaccines, therapeutics and tests — are all effective tools against the virus." And virus experts say there is no evidence that BA.2 causes more severe disease.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.