Friday, January 28, 2022

Why U.S. Need to Learn to Live With COVID-19 in 2022?

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COVID-19 has now been declared eradicated in the United States due to vaccine-induced herd immunity. Instead, with the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron form, we need to focus on 2022 as the year that ushers in a new age of “living with the virus” in the United States.

In epidemiological words, this suggests the virus is shifting from pandemic to endemicity, or moving from global destruction to episodic local flare-ups and eventually settling into long-term cohabitation with its human host. SARS-CoV-2 will continue to be a concern to unvaccinated and vulnerable Americans, but experts believe it will no longer pose a significant public health risk to people who have been immune to the virus through vaccination or natural infection.

Natural immunity in the United States has come at a terrible price, with over 800,000 deaths, a substantial trail of Long COVID impairment, and extensive economic, mental health, and educational damage.

With Omicron, the death toll will rise even more, but the health impact will be muted due to the near-universal infection of the unvaccinated.

Read More:- The United States is urging COVID boosters to begin at the age of 12 to combat omicron.

COVID-19 will become a familiar individual and societal risk in 2022, but will no longer be a disruptor of everyday routine family and community life, whether it is closer to the common cold, the flu, or the toll of motor vehicle accidents. Despite the fact that this will be a difficult and turbulent road, there is hope for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

The pool of vulnerable people available to the virus is progressively shrinking, whether by design (vaccination) or by default (infection). More worrying varieties may emerge, but evolutionary biology and pandemic history suggest they will be more infectious and less virulent. Vaccine technology has progressed to the point that it can now develop new vaccinations with higher specificity than ever before.

Why and how will we adjust our lifestyles, work, travel, attend school, gather, and enjoy life in 2022 to accommodate this new endemic reality? Especially now that Omicron is causing a reversion to the early days of the epidemic when a major segment of society is trying to avoid infection at all costs.

COVID-19 forecasting is a difficult task. A variety of social, psychological, political, and cultural influences must be blended with complex multidisciplinary science. Forecasts must be tested and reassessed on a regular basis due to changing knowledge, uncertainty, and controversy.

Here are four predictions about why and how we’ll be able to live with the virus in 2022:

1) The disease burden caused by COVID-19 will diminish.
Disease load, often known as “virulence,” is defined as a major sickness that necessitates hospitalization and results in death. It does not refer to cases or infections, which are merely a snapshot of the amount of virus circulating in a certain community. Omicron is a variety that is far more contagious than its Delta ancestor but far less virulent. As it spreads swiftly through the remaining vulnerable population in the United States, it may cause periodic increases in local hospitalization rates. However, in most U.S. geographies with high levels of vaccine and natural immunity, and where vulnerable people are protected, it should not result in widespread overcrowding of hospital facilities.

As with any virus that produces a high proportion of asymptomatic infection or mild disease, it will become increasingly clear in the future that cases—as defined by positive tests—will not be a meaningful indicator for making public health decisions.

Individual and population immunity, which protects against serious disease, is dynamic, waxing and waning over time and across geographies. Currently, 205 million Americans have received all of their vaccines. To date, the CDC has reported 53 million COVID positive tests, implying that 150 million Americans have been infected. Many people in these two groups overlap to some extent, but it’s safe to assume that over 80 percent of the 330 million Americans are immune to SARS-CoV-2. We may expect effective population immunity to expand from an already strong base in 2022, thanks to the widespread availability of boosters and a highly communicable variety.

2) The elderly and immunocompromised should be given more priority and resources.
About 75 percent of the more than 800,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States so far have been among those over the age of 65. According to CDC data, persons aged 65 to 85+ had 5-10 times higher hospitalization rates and 65-370 times higher death rates than those aged 18 to 29 (of whom 4,781 have perished). About 20% of the population in the United States is over 65 or immunocompromised, making infection avoidance critical. It is crucial to continue to apply established preventive strategies, especially in communal settings and multigenerational households. Boosters, new oral antiviral drugs, and rapid contact testing to avert infection will all help save lives in this population.

Also Read:- The US Department of Health and Human Services may be unprepared to take over the COVID immunization program.

3) Expect more political polarisation, but actual society risk behavior will converge and normalize, strangely.
Most types of exposure protection, such as masking, vaccination, and requirements, are founded on deeply held personal values and beliefs. Whatever the outcome of the pandemic or public policy, considerable shifts in these sentiments are improbable. Political polarization is as pronounced on COVID as it is in other facets of modern American life. However, we all bump into each other on a daily basis in locations like offices, airports, stadiums, and restaurants. As public life continues to normalize in fits and starts, we will indirectly affect each other through these numerous interactions. The public’s attitude toward exposure risk is likely to converge over time.

4) Acceptance of the fact that “living with the virus” entails dealing with cases and infections.
Most crucially, the definition of COVID’s purpose of “keeping safe” has never been articulated explicitly, either at the federal level or at the individual level. Empirically, for many, it means avoiding infection at all costs, with boosters, masks, fast tests, virtual work, and school, avoiding public transportation, and avoiding virtually any potential exposure serving as markers of safety. For others, it’s almost business as usual; infection is a risk they’re willing to take. In 2022, this large swath of safety definitions will begin to narrow and speed toward convergence, becoming a major driver of a return to a strong dynamic society.

It will do so because we can expect an inexorably high infection case rate among the non-vulnerable 80% of the population, whether vaccinated or not, with Omicron and its successors. Despite this, the 260 million people in this category can return to a near-normal life with a very low objective risk of major illness.

Public psychology will be slowly but forcefully altered by the urgency to get on with life and the unavoidable pandemic fatigue. The continual stream of instances will drive us to shift the goalposts from strict avoidance to living with the danger of infection, to accepting what will become a very low risk of serious disease (as the NFL and NCAA will illustrate). In comparison, influenza and pneumonia are thought to be responsible for roughly 50,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year.

This is similar to the estimated toll from COVID’s endemic phase. Is it possible to change our risk behavior to a similar response?

In practice, these pressures will converge by the end of 2022, resulting in increasing societal risk tolerance and associated behavior. Workplaces, schools, retail outlets, airports, stadiums, and border crossing points will all be open for business. We will realize that the only way to survive the pandemic is to challenge ourselves to follow its laws, not to manage the virus.

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