Virus Expert Warns These States Will Have Next Surge
As much as we'd like to put COVID behind us, the pandemic continues to rage on. More variants keep popping up and there's an uptick of cases across the United States, but these four have the highest increase in cases right now, according to Dr. Ramzi Asfour, MD Board Certified Infectious Disease Specialist and Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner with California Center for Functional Medicine. While some people might not think it's a big deal because the new strains are supposed to be less severe, Dr. Sunjya Schweig, MD Founder and Director California Center for Functional Medicine tells us, "Contrary to the perception that recent variants have become successively milder, Omicron BA.2 was associated with reporting more symptoms, with greater disruption to daily activities [than BA.1]" Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Why COVID Cases Are Rising Again
Dr. J. Wes Ulm, Harvard and MIT-trained MD, PhD with a background in bioinformatics, gene therapy, genetics, drug discovery, consulting and education says, "We happened to encounter an extraordinarily virulent series of coronavirus strains — not merely one — in the form of multiple sub variants of the omicron variant (BA.1) that overwhelmed US hospitals in December of last year and January of 2022. Beginning with the BA.2 subvariant, further mutations and viral evolution gave rise to BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5, and several others, all vying for human hosts in which to further replicate and gain community dominance. Their R0 numbers (a measure of their community transmission) are sky-high, rivaling the measles virus as the most contagious airborne viral pathogen in human history. At the same time, even rudimentary viral precautions were lifted throughout the country, culminating in the cancellation, in early May, of mask mandates aboard flights and public transportation. Home testing also concealed critical data on early hotspots and outbreak zones, greatly understating caseloads that were only partially remedied by measurements via wastewater and percentage of positivity. In other words, in the early spring months of this year, we witnessed the intersection of a ferociously spreading and evolving array of coronavirus variants with an increasingly lackadaisical approach to pandemic protections — the public health equivalent of a perfect storm. In effect, a petri dish was laid out for a fast-disseminating viral strain to wreak havoc, and the newer omicron variants took full advantage to ripple through the population."
According to the New York Times, "An average of 350 cases per day were reported in Alaska in the last week. Cases have increased by 51 percent from the average two weeks ago. Deaths have increased by 20 percent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 3 residents have been infected, a total of 258,867 reported cases. At least 1 in 587 residents have died from the coronavirus, a total of 1,246 deaths. January 2022 was the month with the highest average cases, while November 2021 was the month with the highest average deaths in Alaska."
Dr. Asfour says, "Cases are up 56% in the past 14 days. The University of Hawaii expanded its mask mandate on its 10 campuses due to the rise in cases."
The New York Times reports,"An average of 1,260 cases per day were reported in Hawaii in the last week. Cases have increased by 56 percent from the average two weeks ago. Deaths have decreased by 17 percent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 5 residents have been infected, a total of 267,602 reported cases. At least 1 in 978 residents have died from the coronavirus, a total of 1,448 deaths. January 2022 was the month with the highest average cases, while September 2021 was the month with the highest average deaths in Hawaii."
Dr. Asfour explains, "Some hospitals in California have again curtailed visitation due to a 76% surge in infections and a 49% sager in hospitalizations in the past 14 days, prompting UCLA to reinforce an indoor mask policy for all students, faculty, staff and visitors. The San Francisco Bay Area seems to be a hotspot currently. Three Bay Area counties have more than 200,000 cases: Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa. Much of it is fueled by the highly contagious omicron subvariants," ABC News reports.
The New York Times reports, "An average of 4,155 cases per day were reported in North Carolina in the last week. Cases have increased by 60 percent from the average two weeks ago. Deaths have increased by 187 percent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 4 residents have been infected, a total of 2,747,267 reported cases. At least 1 in 425 residents have died from the coronavirus, a total of 24,654 deaths. January 2022 was the month with the highest average cases, while January 2021 was the month with the highest average deaths in North Carolina."
"Washington DC has seen a 268% rise in cases and a 73% rise in hospitalizations, with rates swiftly rising," says Dr. Asfour. The Washington Post reports, "Signs are everywhere that coronavirus infections in D.C., Maryland and Virginia are on the rise again, with new daily cases this week at least quadruple what they were in late March. But unlike in previous waves, most local and state governments are steering clear of introducing new regulations to stem the spread of the virus, sticking instead to recommendations for people to mask up and get vaccinated."
Why There's An Uptick In Certain States
According to Dr. Asfour, "The BA.2.12.1 variant (an Omicron sub variant) has taken hold in the US, it seems to be significantly more infectious at the same time that many masks and other mandates have been lifted nationwide. The trend has been that the variant starts in the Eastern part of the country, especially NY and then spreads from there, eventually reaching the west coast. This could partly explain the decreasing case rates in NY, CT, MA, RI, and increasing rates elsewhere. Vaccination has been less helpful than hoped in preventing infection but is still highly effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. Many schools and universities are reimposing mask mandates. We will likely see intermittent mask restrictions in parts of the country depending on the number of cases and hospitalization rates."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted 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.
Wes Ulm, MD, PhD, is a physician-researcher, musician (J. Wes Ulm and Kant's Konundrum) ,and novelist, and earned a dual MD/PhD degree from Harvard Medical School and MIT. He is part of the Heroes of the COVID Crisis series in relation to his ongoing efforts in the drug discovery and public health arena.