Coronavirus Today: America’s pandemic priorities

Good night. I’m Karen Kaplan, and it’s Tuesday, July 19. Here’s the most recent on what’s taking place with the coronavirus in California and past.

Coronavirus instances are on the upswing but once more, and infections are so widespread that just about 90% of Californians now dwell in a county with a excessive COVID-19 group degree. Scientists utilizing animals to mannequin the development of the outbreak estimate that it’ll take till at least 2024 for the illness to develop into endemic.

Against this backdrop, it’s simple to really feel like we’re not making a lot progress with getting the pandemic below management. Maybe that’s as a result of American’s don’t even agree on what the issue is.

A report out this month from the Pew Research Center reveals that Democrats and Republicans have very totally different views about what the nation ought to prioritize with regards to the pandemic.

For Democrats (and independents who lean Democratic), the principle factor that deserves extra consideration is “protecting public health.” In a nationally consultant survey, 46% — practically half — say well being points haven’t gotten the eye they deserve, whereas 7% say they’ve acquired an excessive amount of.

Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) don’t agree. Just 20% of those people really feel that defending public well being must be the next precedence than it presently is, whereas 40% say it’s already gotten extra consideration than it deserves.

Stop and take into consideration that for a minute — 46% of Americans on the blue aspect of the political spectrum suppose the nation isn’t paying sufficient consideration to defending public well being, whereas 40% of Americans on the pink aspect suppose we’re paying an excessive amount of.

Similarly, 52% of Democrats (and independents who lean Democratic) say “limiting health risks for vulnerable populations” must be the next precedence for the nation and 6% of them say it must be a decrease precedence. Among Republicans (and independents who lean Republican), 31% say extra must be performed to make life safer for many who are susceptible and 20% say the nation is doing an excessive amount of.

People take part in a Defeat the Mandates March on the National Mall in January to voice their opposition to guidelines requiring face masks and COVID-19 vaccines.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

So what do the extra conservative amongst us suppose we must be specializing in as a substitute? More than two-thirds of them — 69% — say Americans have to up their sport with regards to “respecting individuals’ choices.” Only 28% of their extra liberal counterparts agree.

In the liberal camp, 33% really feel the nation pays an excessive amount of deference to particular person selection. That view is shared by simply 11% of the conservatives.

By a margin of 62% to 34%, Republicans (and Republican leaners) are additionally extra possible than Democrats (and Democratic leaners) to say the nation ought to place the next precedence on “supporting business and economic activity.” At the identical time, 10% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats say enterprise and financial issues obtain an excessive amount of emphasis.

It’s not solely the issues we see otherwise — it’s the options too.

For occasion, 75% of Democrats (and Democratic-leaning independents) say COVID-19 vaccines have been both “very” or “extremely effective” in decreasing coronavirus unfold. Only 32% of Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) agree. Given these views, it’s no marvel there’s such an enormous partisan hole in vaccination standing.

Or contemplate face masks. In the ballot, 71% of Democrats (and Democratic leaners) say sporting masks round others whereas indoors is an efficient solution to cut back coronavirus unfold. That view is shared by simply 21% of Republicans (and Republican leaners). If you’re of the opinion that masks aren’t useful however you’re confronted with a authorities rule that forces you to put on one anyway, it’s no marvel you’d suppose the nation hasn’t performed sufficient to prioritize respect for particular person selections.

The ballot was performed May 2-8 amongst a nationally consultant group of greater than 10,000 Americans. The margin of error for responses evaluating individuals primarily based on their political beliefs was plus or minus 2.2 proportion factors.

“The overall findings reflect two competing critiques of the nation’s response,” the authors of the Pew report wrote. “One, widely expressed among Republicans, is that the country has not focused enough on business concerns and respecting individual choices. The other, more widely held by Democrats, centers concern around efforts to protect public health and limit health risks for vulnerable populations.”

At least there’s one factor Americans throughout the political spectrum agree on: “Neither Republicans nor Democrats think the country has hit the mark in its response to the outbreak.”

By the numbers

California instances and deaths as of 4:55 p.m. on Tuesday:

As of July 19, 2022, California had recorded 10,495,029 coronavirus infections and 92,292 COVID-19 deaths.

Track California’s coronavirus unfold and vaccination efforts — together with the most recent numbers and the way they break down — with our graphics.

A quantity you possibly can’t depend on

Imagine you’re standing on the sidewalk when a automotive whizzes previous. You can inform it’s going quick — too quick. But in case you needed to estimate its pace, might you say whether or not it was going 65 miles per hour? 80? 100?

This is the predicament of those that sincerely care about the variety of coronavirus infections of their group. They can inform that the quantity is excessive — and rising. But they’re hard-pressed to pinpoint it with any certainty.

The case-counting downside has been with us all through the pandemic. In early 2020, well being specialists shortly realized that the coronavirus had been circulating extra aggressively than they’d initially believed. Once the official case depend took off, the well being institution acknowledged that infections had been going uncounted as a result of we lacked the instruments to determine them.

When coronavirus testing websites had been lastly up and working and other people queued up by the tons of to have their nostrils swabbed, the case counts omitted the numerous variety of individuals with asymptomatic infections who didn’t know they need to be in these traces. As far as researchers can inform, roughly 40% of infections produce no COVID-19 signs, resulting in the phenomenon of silent spreaders.

And when the lengthy traces had been made out of date by fast dwelling testing kits, it was extensively acknowledged that loads of optimistic outcomes by no means made their approach into the official statistics. (Indeed, some native well being departments don’t have any approach for individuals to report their dwelling check outcomes, even when it occurred to them to strive.)

Health businesses — from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the World Health Organization — proceed to replace their coronavirus case counts. Officials might have much less confidence within the totals, however at the very least they’ll see whether or not the numbers are rising kind of quickly than up to now.

“We don’t have to count every case to understand what’s happening in our communities,” Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy on the University of Minnesota, instructed my colleague Emily Alpert Reyes. “What’s important is to understand the general trend of how cases are changing.”

Right now, the final pattern is that the virus “is widespread in our communities everywhere,” Osterholm mentioned. “The bottom line is, extensive transmission is going on.”

Laura Robles takes a coronavirus test at Union Station.

Laura Robles takes a coronavirus check at Union Station.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Modeling research by researchers on the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate the official counts embrace only 14% of actual infections.

The lowball counts depart the general public with the misunderstanding that every day actions are lots safer than they are surely.

“People now may be doing things that they don’t realize are going to put them at high risk of getting infected” and infecting others, mentioned Dr. Abraar Karan, a fellow within the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at Stanford University.

Here in L.A., officers depend on extra than simply check outcomes to gauge coronavirus exercise. Data from hospitals and wastewater monitoring techniques assist fill within the gaps.

“We feel confident that we have a decent grasp on the level of spread across the county,” mentioned L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

That’s not precisely as confidence-inspiring as some individuals would love it to be.

Without dependable information, it’s troublesome for well being officers to justify the necessity for masks mandates, vaccine verification applications and different security guidelines. The public is perhaps extra receptive to measures like these if the individuals in cost might level to exhausting metrics and say, “Look, we’ve gone from Point A to Point B — and we’ve crossed a line that is very important,” mentioned Mark Rothstein, a public well being and bioethics knowledgeable.

“You want your public health systems to develop responses that are based on these sorts of metrics,” added Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious-diseases epidemiologist on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “As these metrics become less reliable … you’re left with going back to what it was before, which is just kind of a general sense of where things are headed.”

California’s vaccination progress

As of July 19, 2022, 79.4% of Californians were at least partially vaccinated and 71.9% were fully vaccinated.
A map of California's vaccination progress by county as of July 19, 2022.

See the most recent on California’s vaccination progress with our tracker.

In different news …

It’s exhausting to flee the sensation that issues are shifting within the incorrect route.

The newest model of the CDC’s map reveals 42 of California’s 58 counties coloured orange, indicating they’ve excessive COVID-19 group ranges. As of Thursday, these counties included Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial and Santa Barbara. Considering that Ventura earned a “high” designation the earlier week, nearly all of Southern California is now within the highest tier of coronavirus danger. The solely exceptions are Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The checklist of orange-colored counties additionally consists of all the San Francisco Bay Area, a lot of the Central Valley, and each coastal county besides Santa Cruz and Humboldt.

When you add all of it up, 87% of Californians reside in a spot with a excessive COVID-19 group degree. Every week in the past, 41% of Californians lived in a county within the “high” class.

L.A. County, probably the most populous within the nation, is now averaging about 6,900 coronavirus instances per day. Not solely is that 27% increased than it was every week in the past, however it’s additionally practically double the height case price from final summer time’s Delta surge. Those numbers translate to a price of 476 instances per 100,000 residents per week. (Anything over 100 instances per 100,000 residents per week is taken into account excessive.)

You could also be pondering that the majority of these instances are gentle — and that’s true — however COVID-19 deaths are climbing too. Over the final month, the L.A. County’s weekly loss of life toll has elevated from 50 to between 88 and 100.

Statewide, infections are up 16% week to week, and deaths are as much as about 255 per week. The individuals who preserve tabs on coronavirus ranges in wastewater say that, in some components of the state, the virus is extra widespread now than it was in the course of the winter’s authentic Omicron surge.

Although there are dire indicators coming from just about all components of the state, Los Angeles is the one county with plans to reinstate a masks mandate. The clock started ticking final week when the county’s hospitalization numbers downgraded its COVID-19 group degree from “medium” to “high.” If it stays within the “high” class, a brand new masks mandate will go into impact on July 29.

That mandate would require everybody age 2 and older to put on a masks in indoor venues similar to shops, eating places, bars, gyms, museums, faculties and shared workplaces. They wouldn’t be required when persons are actively consuming or ingesting, or when persons are outdoors.

Business teams are already asking Ferrer to rethink her plan. In a letter to the county well being chief, they wrote that requiring masks “puts employees in the increasingly challenging position of enforcing a mandate that many customers no longer wish to — or are unwilling to — comply with.”

Another concern is that prospects who don’t need to put on masks will merely take their enterprise to a neighboring county the place masks aren’t required.

Those within the anti-mandate camp bought some help from Dr. Brad Spellberg, the chief medical officer for Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. About 90% of sufferers with coronavirus infections there have been admitted for different causes, he mentioned in an inner city corridor assembly that was posted online.

“Virtually none of them go to the ICU — and when they do go to the ICU, it is not for pneumonia. They are not intubated,” he mentioned, citing different points similar to electrolyte abnormalities.

It is just not the same pandemic as it was, despite all the media hype to the contrary,” Spellberg added. “A lot of people have bad colds, is what we’re seeing.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Holtom seconded that view. Although the rise in hospitalizations is the set off for the masks mandate, he mentioned “there’s no reason, from a hospitalization-due-to-COVID perspective, to be worried at this point.”

L.A. County Department of Health Services, which has oversight of County-USC, disputed that view. The pandemic “remains a very serious public health threat that we must continue to fight with every tool available,” the division mentioned in a press release.

Indeed, outbreaks at L.A. County workplaces have practically quadrupled since early May. Affected companies embrace airports, aerospace corporations, Hollywood movie and tv manufacturing, and meals processing corporations. County well being officers suggested employers to increase choices for distant work to scale back crowding on the job.

Increased uptake of COVID-19 vaccines might assist too, and a brand new shot from Novavax might transfer some American adults from the unvaxxed to the vaxxed column. The CDC’s vaccine advisory group met Tuesday and voted unanimously to advocate it. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, did simply that.

The newfangled vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson ship genetic directions to cells so they may make innocent copies of the coronavirus’ spike protein. Millions of Americans have rejected that new expertise, and the CDC advisors anticipate these skeptics to be extra comfy with the Novavax shot, which employs a well-known expertise utilized in vaccines for shingles, hepatitis B and different ailments.

“I’m really positive about this vaccine,” mentioned Dr. Pablo Sanchez of Ohio State University, a member of the CDC advisory group.

The federal authorities has already bought 3.2 million doses. Like the Pfizer vaccine, the one from Novavax requires two doses given three weeks aside. In scientific trials, the photographs had been protected and about 90% efficient at stopping COVID-19 signs.

Speaking of vaccines, about 25 million children all over the world have missed out on routine childhood immunizations because of the pandemic, in line with a brand new report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF. In some instances, vaccinations had been missed as a result of the pandemic interrupted common well being companies; in others, misinformation about COVID-19 photographs turned individuals off of vaccines altogether.

“This is a red alert for child health,” mentioned Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s government director. “We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation,” and its penalties will likely be measured in lives misplaced.

Another report from the WHO mentioned coronavirus instances throughout Europe had tripled up to now six weeks and now accounted for practically half of all infections globally. The rise in instances has precipitated hospitalization charges to double, although intensive care admissions have remained low.

And lastly, we gained’t have Dr. Anthony Fauci to kick round for much longer. The nation’s prime infectious ailments knowledgeable mentioned Monday that he plans to retire earlier than President Biden’s present time period ends in January 2025.

The 81-year-old Fauci has been working the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He spent a long time preventing illness like HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, Ebola and Zika earlier than changing into a family title in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fauci mentioned his determination wasn’t motivated by politics.

“It has nothing to do with pressures, nothing to do with all of the other nonsense that you hear about, all the barbs, the slings and the arrows,” he mentioned. “That has no influence on me.”

Your questions answered

Today’s query comes from readers who need to know: What is Centaurus?

It’s a constellation within the southern sky, however that’s not the reply you’re in search of. The one which’s related to a coronavirus publication is both:

a) The nickname of the brand new Omicron subvariant BA.2.75.

b) Nothing you could fear about proper now.

c) All of the above.

The right reply is c.

WHO’s names for variants of concern and variants of curiosity are primarily based on Greek letters. That’s your first clue that Centaurus isn’t an official moniker. Your second is this tweet from July 1, wherein an avid coronavirus commenter introduced, “I have just named BA.2.75 variant after a galaxy. Its new name is Centaurus strain. Get used to it.”

BA.2.75 bought consideration for spreading quickly in India and has turned up in roughly 10 international locations. About a dozen infections involving the subvariant have been recognized within the U.S. by Helix, which provides sequencing information to the CDC. At least two of these instances had been in California, together with one in Los Angeles County.

In an analysis of variants detected within the U.S. over the previous 15 days, 0.03% had been BA.2.75. That’s decrease than the unheralded BA.2.74 (at 0.06%) and BA.2.76 (at 0.08%). And none of these are wherever close to excessive sufficient to price a point out on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

BA.2.75 has a number of mutations on its spike protein that scientists discover regarding. Researchers who’re sharing their preliminary check outcomes on-line report that the subvariant might be more proficient at evading the immune safety of vaccines and previous infections than BA.2.12.1 however much less adept than BA.4 and BA.5 (which share the identical spike protein).

But “it’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” mentioned Matthew Binnicker, director of scientific virology on the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

One factor we will say for certain: The coronavirus isn’t fading away, so it’s mandatory to stay vigilant in opposition to all subvariants.

We need to hear from you. Email us your coronavirus questions, and we’ll do our greatest to reply them. Wondering in case your query’s already been answered? Check out our archive right here.

The pandemic in photos

People in a long flat boat row in a body of water. In the background is a bridge and some city buildings.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The uncommon watercraft within the photograph above is a dragon boat. The racing of dragon boats is an historic Chinese sport — presumably the oldest group sport there’s.

This boat, painted with inexperienced scales, is being rowed by members of the D.C. Dragon Boat Club in our nation’s capital. The girl with the blue shirt, white visor and ponytail is Kimbriell Kelly, the paper’s Washington Bureau chief. She’d been a aggressive dragon boat paddler for a number of years earlier than giving it as much as give attention to her profession.

Running a bureau of 30 journalists could be draining below any circumstances, however maintaining with an unrelenting news cycle within the midst of a pandemic was a certain recipe for burnout. Kelly’s aunt steered she recharge by getting again on the water. Two months latter, Kelly was prepared to offer it a strive.

“Like so many of us during the pandemic, I didn’t have a work problem. I had a life problem,” she wrote. “The solution would be dragon boats. And they would send me on an improbable quest.”

That quest was to earn a seat within the boat when the membership competed in opposition to groups from Hungary, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, India, Britain and Canada within the Club Crew World Championships later this month. Read her story to seek out out whether or not she succeeded.

A long photo exposure shows a blur of paddles and arms above a boat in a body of water.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


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