America recognized Memorial Day this year with COVID-19 cases increasing to a rate five times higher than the same holiday period last year. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue despite efforts to bring the virus under control.
“This time last year, I was so hopeful,” Margaret Thornton, a 35-year-old Philadelphia researcher preparing to spend her summer socializing mostly outdoors because of her weakened immune system, told The Washington Post. “Now, I don’t know when it’s going to be over, and I don’t think there is necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel. Or rather, if there is a light, is it an opening to get out? Or is it a train?”
Virginia topped 9,943 new infections over the Memorial Day weekend, with 19 new deaths and 153 more hospitalizations. Floyd County reported 13 new cases during the holiday and six more in Wednesday’s report.
The Post reports:
Parents of children too young to be vaccinated are making cross-country travel plans. Octogenarians are venturing to bars. And families are celebrating graduations and weddings with throngs of mostly unmasked revelers — mindful they may get sick. Again.
More than half of the U.S. population is living in areas classified as having medium or high covid-19 levels by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest cases have yet to overrun hospitals, but that could change as the virus spreads among more vulnerable people.The dominant strains circulating in the United States are the most contagious thus far.
“This one is really revved up, and it’s probably getting up there with something as transmissible as measles,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College,describing the BA.2.12.1 subvariant now accounting for more thanhalf of new cases. “Over the Memorial Day holidays, if you are in settings where you are indoors with large numbers of people without masks … there is a good likelihood you will suffer a breakthrough infection.”–The Washington Post
Our house spent Memorial Day in quarantine. Both my wife and I came down with the latest variant, even though we are fully vaccinated with booster shots.
“You should not think, ‘Oh, I had omicron, I don’t need any shots’ or ’I don’t need any more shots,’” Melanie Ott, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and a co-author of a paper recently published in Nature finding limited natural immunity from the omicron variant, tells the Post. “We are going into a surge of the omicron subvariants that are more and more able to infect people who have preexisting immunity.”
While vaccinations are considered a barrier to dying from the virus, the odds go out the window with the elderly. In January and February of this year, 42 percent of deaths were vaccinated. Two-thirds of them were age 75 or older.
“Seniors are overwhelmingly immunized, but vaccines are less effective and their potency wanes over time in older age groups,” says the Centers for Disease Control in a recent statement.
“Vaccines are one of the most important and longest-lasting tools we have to protect ourselves,” California State Epidemiologist Erica Pan, said in a Post interview, citing state estimates showing vaccines have shown to be 85 percent effective in preventing death. “Unfortunately, that does leave another 15.”