The pandemic is not over. Here’s how to stay safe

after more than three years, over 6 million hospitalizations and 1.1 million American deaths, the Biden Administration has officially declared the end of the Covid-19 federal public health emergency effective May 11, 2023.

In a data sheet Summarizing the decision, the US Department of Health and Human Services stated that since January 2021, COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths have decreased by 91% and 95%, respectively.

With the World Health Organization also declaring earlier this month that Covid-19 is now simply a global health threat, rather than an “emergency of international concern,” May 2023 marks a turning point in the pandemic. .

However, some experts fear that such claims could be misleading. “When the government sends the message that Covid-19 is pretty much over, I don’t think it’s helpful,” says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “I would say that the ongoing cost of Covid should be less than what we are tolerating for. People keep dying, and the frustrating thing is that many of these deaths are preventable.”

Covid-19 continues to kill people

While the significant increases in hospitalizations and deaths that characterized much of 2020 and 2021 are over, due to the effectiveness of the global vaccine rollout, covid-19 continues to claim a steady toll of deaths.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,000 Americans continue to die from causes related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus every week. This continuous line of deaths can add up to a surprisingly large number over the course of weeks and months. According to CDC figures, some 42,924 Americans died of covid-19 between December 28 and May 3.

“It’s a slow but steady burn,” says Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York. “When you start looking at this data over time, it really is scary and insidious how many deaths are still occurring. I think when people see it being told that way, they start to really appreciate how this isn’t over in the way that we hear so many of our elected leaders, politicians and other talking heads discussing it.”

Who is more vulnerable?

The elderly and people with underlying health conditions remain the most vulnerable to the virus. In particular, the 7 million Americans who are immunocompromised remain at risk of contracting the virus because key monoclonal antibody treatments are now ineffective against newer variants.

Cutbacks in data collection have meant that it is difficult for scientists to understand which sectors of the population are hospitalized and dying from covid-19. the cdc has announced it is now shutting down some of its Covid data tracking efforts, including tracking and reporting new infections.

“There are some people who have received vaccinations, so doctors assume they are no longer vulnerable, but their immunity is not as strong due to their age or health conditions, and these are the people who are slipping away. says Nash.

According to William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, most people now hospitalized are usually vaccinated, but they belong to certain high-risk groups. “These are older, frail or younger patients who have underlying conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes,” he says.

ongoing variants

New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge and become dominant in various parts of the world, often subtly changing Covid symptomatology in the process.

As an example, the latest Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.16, nicknamed Arcturus, contains an additional mutation in the spike protein that makes it more contagious than Omicron. First discovered in India, it was detected in 30 countries as of early May.


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