When the coronavirus was in retreat across the United States in late February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations that veered away from depending on the number of new cases in a community to determine the need for pandemic safety measures.
The focus shifted more toward the number of hospitalized people with the virus. Far more new cases than before would be required to push a community into the medium or high-risk categories.
The change turned most of the US map green at a stroke. Until then, 95 percent of US counties were considered high-risk, but afterward, fewer than one-third of Americans were living in places in that category, the agency said. The new guidelines gave millions of people confidence to remove their face masks and recommended that as long as the pressure on hospitals remained manageable, the country could return to some version of normal life.
That strategy will be put to the test in the next few weeks, because hospitalizations are rising again nationally. As of Thursday, an average of more than 18,000 people with the coronavirus are in US hospitals, an increase of 20 percent from two weeks ago. The figure includes patients who are in the hospital because they are very ill with COVID-19, as well as those admitted for other reasons who test positive on arrival. More than half of American adults have at least one underlying chronic condition, and for many of them, the winter omicron wave was not as mild as it was for others.
The recent influx has been even steeper in the largest high-risk area now on the national map, the hot spot that has spread across upstate New York and spilled into nearby states. According to New York state, there were 2,119 patients hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 on Tuesday, 47% more than the figure from two weeks before.
The state’s figure is still well below the winter omicron peak of January, when about 13,000 people were hospitalized statewide. But it has been increasing, propelled by rapidly spreading BA.2 subvariants, which were detected in Central New York and have become a growing share of new US cases.
NEW YORK TIMES
Games in China postponed over concerns about Omicron outbreaks
Less than three months after Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Olympic Council of Asia said Friday that this year’s Asian Games in China are being postponed because of concerns about the spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.
The OCA said it had not picked new dates but said they would be announced “in the near future” after talks with local organizers and the Chinese Olympic Committee.
The OCA statement said local organizers were “very well prepared to deliver the games on time despite the global challenges. However, the decision was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the games.”
The postponement reflects a growing concern among the Chinese leadership about rapidly spreading outbreaks from Shanghai to Beijing in an important political year. The ruling Communist Party is holding a major meeting this fall and doesn’t want any signs of instability, pandemic-related or not.
China is staying with a “zero-COVID” strategy of lockdowns and other restrictions despite the economic costs and the fact that many other countries around the world are loosening up and trying to live with the virus.
China’s state-run television also reported the Asian Games postponement in a brief statement, but did not specify anything about rescheduling.
The Asian Games were to take place Sept. 10-25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou and would involve more than 11,000 athletes — more than the typical Summer Olympics. The last edition was in 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The World University Games, another major multisport event, have also been postponed, organizers said Friday. They were scheduled for last year but were postponed until 2022. They were to take place this year June 26-July 7 in the western city of Chengdu. About 6,000 athletes were believed to be involved.
The Switzerland-based International University Sports Federation, which runs the games, said they would be held in 2023 but gave no date or details.
Long COVID symptoms linked to virus strain says UK report
The risk of lingering symptoms after COVID-19 appears influenced by the strain of coronavirus that caused the infection, according to an analysis from the United Kingdom, where an estimated 1.8 million people reported experiencing long COVID in early April.
The odds of reporting fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, and other persistent symptoms were 50 percent lower following infections likely caused by the omicron BA.1 variant than those likely caused by the delta strain, the Office for National Statistics said in a report Friday. The difference was only found among adults who were double vaccinated when infected. Among those who were triple vaccinated, the difference wasn’t statistically significant.
Among triple vaccinated adults, the odds of reporting long COVID were higher following infection with the omicron BA.2 variant than the BA.1 variant, the analysis found.
More than two-thirds of those with self-reported long COVID, or 1.2 million people, said their symptoms adversely affected their day-to-day activities, and almost a fifth said their symptoms limited them a lot, according to the statistics bureau.
Most long COVID symptoms don’t seem to be life-threatening, but things like shortness of breath or fatigue can be disabling. The US Government Accountability Office said in a March report that long COVID could affect the broader economy through decreased labor participation and an increased need for use of Social Security disability insurance or other publicly subsidized insurance.