Nearly 2 Years Later, COVID-19 Unknowns Abound
Even when a pandemic begins some 6,000 miles away, there are still many unknowns by the time it reaches your shores. Some of those unknowns continue.
It takes a while to figure out what all the symptoms are. As well as how long they tend to last. It requires time to determine how the illness spreads. And whether medications are effective against it. Plus which precautions to take.
Time is also needed to develop a test for it. And then to produce vaccines to help prevent it. It remains a mystery why some people are asymptomatic, others become mildly ill, and some die.
And then there's the unknown about how long the pandemic will last. A total of 300,777 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the U.S. on January 8, 2021, according to the New York Times. But by late June we were averaging fewer than 12,000 new cases per day.
Many believed we had finally turned the corner. But another surge brought us to an average of more than 160,000 new daily cases by early September. Since then, new daily cases have dropped again. As have hospitalizations and deaths.
But there are currently many hotspots in the country. A spike in Alaska has overwhelmed the state's medical system. Conditions are improving in the South. But, they are getting worse in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Still, everyone is hopeful that this time we truly have rounded the bend and are headed for the finish line. The truth is, we just don't know yet.
Coronavirus statistics have been staggering. As of this writing, there have been 44.6 million cases reported in America.
Health experts say the actual number is higher, due to a lack of reporting in many asymptomatic cases.
There have also been 719,000 deaths in the U.S. associated with COVID-19. Globally, as of this writing, there have been 219 million cases reported, as well as 4.55 million deaths.
Trying to Legislate Compliance
Nationally, we've heard many recommendations from Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials. Especially about vaccines and behaviors. And now federal government workers are being told they must get the vaccine.
On local and state levels, some of those "recommendations" have become laws. Restrictions have met with both agreement and adamant disagreement.
In California, they're about to put into place the nation's first coronavirus vaccine mandate for school children. That was scheduled to occur after the government had fully vetted the vaccine for those ages 5 to 15.
In New York City, a vaccine mandate for public school teachers and staff has met with considerable resistance. Those who have not received at least one shot of a vaccine are threatened with suspension without pay.
Children the Latest Target
One of the recent concerns about COVID-19 has been a big uptick in the number of infected children.
Kids are much less likely to become critically ill than older people. But pediatric hospitalizations have risen over the last several weeks.
More than 5.7 million children have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic's beginning. Well over 500 Americans 18 years of age and younger have died from it.
States with the most recent COVID-19 cases among children per capita are South Carolina and Tennessee. Parents in those states and elsewhere have said they don't trust the vaccines. And they do not believe that masks are the answer.
At-Home Tests Increasing
COVID-19 symptoms are often like flu symptoms. So there is also concern that people will not know which – if either – they might have during flu season.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to remedy this situation. They're making rapid at-home COVID-19 testing more widely available.
Dr. Jeffrey E. Shuren is director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. He said a new at-home test from Acon Laboratories "is expected to double rapid at-home testing capacity in the U.S. over the next several weeks."
The manufacturer plans to produce more than 100 million tests per month. And more than 200 million per month by February 2022.
Hospitals Denying Transplants
Here's another highly controversial subject. The number of hospitals denying unvaccinated people transplants is on the rise.
An unvaccinated Colorado woman needs a kidney transplant. She has a donor lined up. But she was recently refused an operation by the University of Colorado Hospital. The hospital requires COVID-19 vaccination for organ transplant patients "in almost all situations."
A hospital spokesperson said the mortality rate for unvaccinated transplant patients is 20 to 30 percent. Because they are at significant risk from the virus.
The situation was called "incredibly frustrating, incredibly sad and incredibly disgusting" by a local newspaper.
Complacency Is Biggest Concern
As we head toward winter, with new cases dwindling, health officials are concerned Americans will again let their guard down. Which could spark another surge.
Dr. Stephen Threlkeld is director of infectious disease at Baptist Memorial Health Care in Mississippi. He is one of many medical personnel warning about COVID complacency.
"We have a long way to go before we get well enough not to have bad things happen," he said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, agrees. "Complacency can be as dangerous as the virus itself," he said. "We must continue to be vigilant."
Hopefully, the latest drop in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths means the worst is over. But we just don't know. In the meantime, please be careful and take care of yourselves.