COVID-19 cases are increasing nationally as the United States moves into its second Christmas season during the pandemic, with most families planning to reunite this year for Thanksgiving.
The United States is in better shape than it was at this time last year, when authorities confirmed more than 160,000 COVID-19 cases every day.
The daily average of new cases is below 100,000 and nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. They can “feel good enjoying a typical” holiday season, infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday Shows Preview: Boosters Open To All US Adults House Democrats Pass Spending Plan To Senate Michigan Issues New Warning On Masks As COVID-19 Cases Rise Healthcare overnight – Brought to you by Emergent Biosolutions – Boosters for Everyone MORE said this week.
But with millions still unvaccinated and cases on the rise, experts urge Americans – particularly the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and vulnerable – to exercise caution when meeting with others.
“There is concern that the rate of spread of the infection is already so high as we approach the holiday season,” said Amber D’Souza, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We are definitely heading for our next raise,” he added.
Nationwide, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is approaching 95,000, a 33 percent increase from the previous two weeks, according to data from The New York Times. In the past two weeks, cases have increased in 39 states and DC, and have doubled in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Certain areas like the Midwest, New England, and the Southwest in particular are dealing with power surges.
The daily average of about 48,000 hospital admissions has been flat for two weeks, while the 1,100 deaths per day have dropped by 1 percent.
The case spikes come as many across the country plan intergenerational gatherings next week, prompting public health experts to ask Americans to consider security measures for their events.
The risk of different Thanksgiving gatherings varies, as indoor events are more dangerous than outdoor events and including unvaccinated guests poses more danger than limiting fully vaccinated attendees. Ultimately, experts said, it depends on how much risk people want to take.
Researchers, including Joshua Weitz, a professor of biological sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have developed a tool to help determine the localized risk of at least one infected person being at an event.
For events with 50 people, the calculator shows that eight states have counties with a risk level of at least 95 percent.
“Even if we are fatigued, the reality is that cases are increasing and there are too many people who are not vaccinated, and that is contributing to further spread, as well as serious outcomes,” said Joshua Weitz, professor of biological sciences at the Institute. of Georgia Technology.
“I think we should all be concerned that the things that we appreciate, that we enjoy doing, could inadvertently lead to an increase in serious cases and results,” he added.
Approximately 57 million people 12 years and older remain unvaccinated and are at increased risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, in addition to ending up hospitalized or killed by the virus.
Still, experts do not expect any potential increase to reach last year’s levels, as most of the country has immunity to the virus.
Nearly 196 million Americans are fully vaccinated and 32 million have received a booster dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among adults 65 and older who are at highest risk for severe disease, 86.2 percent are fully vaccinated and 38 percent have received their booster.
However, even with the majority of Americans protected by the vaccine, the injections are not 100 percent effective, meaning that groundbreaking cases can still emerge. Experts also said that declining immunity to the vaccine over time and high community transmission could lead to more breakthrough cases.
Although it’s too late to start any vaccinations to be fully protected by Thanksgiving next week, experts said hosts and visitors can still take precautions to mitigate the spread over the holidays, including having attendees test. fast, organize outdoor events and increase ventilation.
Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, said that even people who attend fully vaccinated events can take steps to protect attendees.
“I think that added layer of doing a quick test or something or other activities to try to help you be doubly sure that your dinner doesn’t turn into a high-profile event is still worth doing,” he said.
Older, immunosuppressed and other vulnerable people should “really consider a safety plan,” he said, adding “but I don’t think the safety plan has to be: suspend the meeting altogether.”
The United States has already made booster shots available to these at-risk populations in recent months, and the Food and Drug Administration expanded the booster authorization for all adults on Friday.
The CDC vacation guide updated last month suggests that all eligible people get vaccinated to protect those who cannot, such as children and those at risk.
For children ages 5 to 11, the Pfizer vaccine was recently available earlier this month, so a vast majority will not be fully vaccinated next week. Children under the age of 5 are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.
To protect these children, Lori Handy, medical director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recommended implementing additional “layers of protection” and ensuring that those with exposures or symptoms do not attend.
For children at risk due to medical conditions, he said it is “time to be a kind of mama bear and protect your children from a little more of this pandemic.”
“I would recommend that people be as cautious as possible,” he said. “Find ways to get joy and happiness in the holiday season, but don’t go overboard with very large gatherings where you might regret that event.”