CDC study highlights speed with which omicron variant infected Americans, and WHO warns testing remains crucial

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights how many Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and how significantly the number has increased since the arrival of the highly infectious omicron variant late last year.

The report released Tuesday found case numbers were particularly striking in children, with three in four infected, sending the total to 75% in February from about 45% in December, the Associated Press reported.

Among Americans of all ages, about 34% had signs of prior infection in December, rising to 58% in February.

The researchers examined blood samples from more than 200,000 Americans and looked for virus-fighting antibodies that arose from infections, not vaccines.

“I expected it to increase. I didn’t expect it to get that high,” said Dr. Kristie Clarke, co-leader of a CDC team tracking the extent of coronavirus infections.

The older you were, the less likely you were to have evidence of past infections, the study found. For those over 65, 19% had signs of prior infection in December and 33% in February. That may be because older adults have higher vaccination rates and are more likely to take other precautions against COVID-19, such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds, Clarke said.

CDC officials stressed that previously infected people should still receive COVID-19 vaccines, as they remain the best protection against serious illness and death.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the scientific understanding of its transmission and prevention has evolved. The WSJ’s Daniela Hernández explains which strategies have worked to stop the spread of the virus and which are outdated in 2022. Illustration: Adele Morgan

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in the US, driven by the BA.2 variant of omicron, along with two sub-variants that appear to be even more infectious. The two, named BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, were recently highlighted by New York state health officials.

The United States is averaging 50,791 cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, up 61% from two weeks ago. Cases are rising in nearly every state and territory, in some cases more than doubling since early April.

The country is averaging 15,908 hospitalizations per day, 6% more than two weeks ago, although it remains near the lowest level since the first weeks of the pandemic. The number of daily deaths has fallen below 400 to 362 on average.

But the official death toll is expected to reach 1 million within weeks, and experts warn that with many other parts of the world still unvaccinated, new variants may emerge.

Watch now: Many Americans feel pandemic is over, but highly transmissible, immune-evasive new variants are likely, White House COVID response coordinator says

Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on rapid tests and PCR on Tuesday, her press secretary, Kirsten Allen, said in a statement.

Harris “has not presented symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the residence of the vice president. She has not been in close contact with the President or First Lady due to their respective recent travel plans,” Allen added.

Meanwhile, Pfizer PFE,
+1.78%
and the German partner BioNTech BNTX,
-1.26%
have asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a booster dose of COVID-19 for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Boosters are authorized for adolescents and adults.

The companies said data from a Phase 2/3 clinical trial revealed no new safety concerns when children in this age group received a booster six months after completing the primary series of injections.

Coronavirus update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting on all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Other news about COVID-19 that you should know:

• Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will begin rounds of COVID-19 tests in the coming days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, the AP reported. Beijing residents are keeping an eye on news about whether the capital city will go into lockdown. China reported 14,222 new cases, most of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its biggest outbreak since the first outbreak was reported in Wuhan in late December 2019. The flow of industrial goods was also disrupted by the suspension of access to Shanghai, home to the world’s busiest port, and other industrial cities, including Changchun. and Jilin in northeast China. That phenomenon is showing up frequently in US corporate earnings during the current first-quarter season.

Beijing is racing to test more than 20 million people as residents scramble to stock up on food. The WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng shows what life is like in the capital and reveals the potential ripple effects if officials can’t control the rapidly spreading virus. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

• The European Union is emerging from the emergency phase of the pandemic in which testing should be targeted and tracking of COVID-19 cases should be akin to sample-based flu surveillance, Reuters reported. The change comes amid a steady decline in cases and deaths and with more than 70% of the trade bloc’s population vaccinated and boosted.

• The EU’s move comes as the World Health Organization warns that a sharp decline in testing around the world is blinding it to the continued spread of the virus and potentially dangerous mutations, The Guardian reported. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that while the decline in the number of cases and deaths is a welcome trend, it could also be the result of significant cuts in testing. “As many countries scale back testing, WHO is getting less and less information about transmission and sequencing,” he said. “This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution. When it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss.”

• Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD,
-0.56%
has steadily expanded the use of its COVID treatment Veklury, while much of the country’s attention has shifted to the arrival of new antivirals that can be picked up over the counter at a pharmacy, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported on Wednesday. So far this year, the Food and Drug Administration has given Veklury approval as an outpatient treatment for COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of hospitalization or death; regulator upgraded authorization to full approval for use in young children; and the World Health Organization revised its conditional recommendation for Veklury, saying it now recommends the treatment for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of hospitalization. Gilead first received emergency authorization for remdesivir, as it was then called, as a treatment for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 on May 1, 2020, making it the first new drug to show that it helped hospitalized patients. with COVID-19 during one of the darkest points. in the pandemic. The company will report first quarter earnings on Thursday.

As the fourth doses of Covid vaccines are released, some are wondering if the general population needs them. At the center of this debate are the mysterious T cells. Daniela Hernandez of WSJ explains the role of T cells in Covid immunity and how they relate to antibodies. Illustration: Adele Morgan

This is what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 511.3 million on Tuesday, while the death toll topped 6.22 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States leads the world with 81.1 million cases and more than 992,028 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows that 219.4 million people living in the US are fully vaccinated, which is 66.1% of the total population. But only 100.2 million are vaccinated, equivalent to 45.7% of the vaccinated population.

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