A good friend came down with COVID-19 this week and is recovering at home, reminding all of us that, even with dropping numbers of deaths and hospitalizations, the virus remains a serious threat.
Floyd County reported three new cases in Thursday’s daily report from the Virginia Department of Health, bringing the total of cases in our locality to 3,046 with 50 deaths. Medical experts tell us that the total of infections of lower than it really should be because of those who use home test kits to discover they have the virus but never report it to their doctor unless they have symptoms.
President Joe Biden told our allies that the pandemic is “effectively over” last week, a statement that brought howls of protests from his own White House advisors, who say the spread of infections continues, along with the threat. The president later “amended” his remarks to say a threat continues.
Virginia reporter 1,641 new cases Thursday, a normal rate in recent weeks, bringing the total reported cases to 2,078,555. Hospitalizations appear to be dropping with 40 new cases throughout the Commonwealth for a total now of 56,011 since the pandemic began.
In adjoining Montgomery County, 26 new cases brought its total to 23,008. The city of Radford had 4 new cases and a total of 5,819. Our neighbor to the northeast, Roanoke city/county of 64 new cases and a total of over 52,000 reported cases. Salem added three new infections with 6,726 total.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control says new daily cases have dropped 22% so far this month with deaths down 14%. The United States had 55,954 new cases Thursday with 419 deaths.
COVID-19 has 13 “supplemental variants” of the virus with Omicron, the latest, continuing to evolve into variants of its own. Omicron attacks most seriously those without weakened immune systems and less than a full load of vaccine shots.
The third “booster” is now being administered in the U.S. at pharmacies, hospitals, and state health agencies. In Floyd County, appointments are available at the Virginia Department of Health office and local pharmacies.
“The genetic innovations seen in Omicron were far more profound as if it was a new species rather than just a new strain,” Darren Martin, a virologist at the University of Cape Town, tells the New York Times.
But it soon became clear that the name “Omicron” hid a complex reality. After the original Omicron virus evolved in the fall of 2021, its descendants split into at least five branches, known as BA.1 through BA.5.
Over the next few months, the subvariants took turns rising to dominance. BA.1 went first, but it was soon outcompeted by BA.2. Each one was distinct enough from the others to evade some of the immunity of its predecessors. By this summer, BA.5 was on the rise.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded by inviting vaccine makers to produce booster shots that included a BA.5 protein along with one from the original version of the virus. Those boosters are now rolling out to the public, at a time when BA.5 is causing 85 percent of all Covid cases in the United States.
But BA.5 could be fading in the rearview mirror by winter, scientists said. Omicron has continued to evolve — likely by sometimes jumping among hosts, and sometimes hiding for months in one of them.
The pandemic appears to be far from over and there could be more rough times ahead.