National experts are increasingly confident that the country will see some increase in COVID-19 activity in the coming weeks, but it is unclear how concerned Coloradans should be.
The country’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he expected some increase in new cases in the coming weeks, as infections rise in Europe and the BA.2 version of the virus takes hold.
BA.2 is a more contagious cousin of omicron, which currently causes the majority of infections in the United States. It is not yet clear whether this will increase hospitalizations or cause enough infections to cause disruption, Fakui said.
As of Wednesday, cases in the United Kingdom had doubled compared to two weeks earlier, and hospitalizations began to appear – although it is unclear how many were accidental, meaning a person may have been admitted for something else. tested positive during Generally speaking, the United States’ COVID-19 trajectory has been weeks behind the United Kingdom, and both countries have lifted almost all public health restrictions in recent weeks.
The Denver Department of Public Health and the Environment issued a statement Friday saying BA.2 has been detected in the city, but its experts are “not concerned about an increase in cases” as transmission in the community remains low. Over the past two years, the state has seen a decrease in infections in late spring and summer.
“While the percentage of cases identified as having the BA.2 variant may increase, the DDPHE anticipates low transmission as a result of both increased vaccination rates and natural immunity from recent infections from the Omicron variant,” the statement said. expressed.”
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 23% of cases in the country are caused by BA. In Colorado, the latest numbers show that BA.2 caused about 7% of cases in the first week of March, up from 4% a week earlier.
Brian Spencer, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said officials are monitoring trends across the country and around the world as they approach the pandemic.
“Sometimes trends from other countries can be helpful early indicators of what we can expect closer to home. However, the experiences of other countries are not always directly translatable to Colorado,” he said on Friday.
Cases are falling in nearly every state even after the country came out of the Omicron boom, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The exception is New York, where new COVID-19 infections have increased by about 7% over the past two weeks.
Other early signs suggest the virus may be spreading more widely. Of the 485 wastewater monitoring sites on the CDC’s dashboard, about 36% have seen an increase in viral particles found in sewage in the past 15 days. People with COVID-19 shed virus particles in their stool, whether they have symptoms or not, so testing wastewater can give an idea of how widespread the virus is.
Of the 27 Colorado wastewater sites with data on the CDC’s dashboard, 11 reported an increase in the amount of virus in the wastewater and a decrease in 16.
Cases rose slightly in Colorado this week, though they remained near record lows, and less than 5% of test positives came back across the state. In Pitkin and Gunnison counties, however, the positivity rate is nearly double that level. In contrast, Denver has a positivity rate of less than 2%.
It is possible that the increased positivity rates in those mountain communities reflect that the state has scaled back testing, so that people who do not feel ill are less likely to go to the effort to find a location, according to epidemiological research. Assistant Professor Talia Quandelsey at the Colorado School of Public Health.
If this trend continues and spreads to other communities, it could be a warning sign, she said.
While Colorado has often followed Britain’s COVID-19 trajectory, that hasn’t happened every time, Quandlessi said. The alpha version, which caused widespread disruption in the United Kingdom, resulted in a relatively limited increase in cases when it arrived in Colorado in late December 2020.
“I think it’s too early to say whether we should definitely expect a wave,” she said. “If we see one, it is likely that it will not be on the same scale” as the recent Omicron wave.
A February report by the state’s COVID-19 modeling team estimated that the number of cases and hospitalizations would remain low until June because about 90% of people had some immunity to Omicron – assuming a new variant didn `t come. Quandelsey said the 90% estimate is somewhat fluid, as people gradually become more susceptible to re-acquiring the virus as time passes by they are vaccinated or infected, although their relatively low Mild cases are likely.
“It’s not an absolute,” she said.
Quandlessi said a recent Omicron infection would provide at least some protection against BA.2, and that people who are up-to-date on their vaccines would have stronger protection against serious disease. So far, there is no indication that BA.2 causes more severe disease or is significantly more difficult for the immune system to detect than Omicron, but it is not clear how long immunity will last.
One of the treatments that works well against Omicron, the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, doesn’t do much against BA.2. Still, this leaves three antiviral options for preventing severe disease: two types of pills and remdesivir, which is to be given in three infusions.
The US Food and Drug Administration recently authorized another monoclonal antibody product called bebtelovimab. It recommends using it only if other options are not available, however, because it works well against BA.2 in Petri dishes, there is less data about how useful it is in the real world.
If a new wave were to arrive, the timing could be less than ideal, given the impasse over additional funding. The White House has sought $15 billion to buy more treatment and testing supplies, and warned states they could see their allocation of monoclonal antibodies cut by 30% next week. Congressional Republicans have raised concerns about a lack of transparency about how past COVID-19 response money was spent and are unwilling to approve more quickly.
Right now, people don’t need to make drastic changes to their lifestyle, said Quandelsey, but if you’re ready to prepare for BA.2 or future variants, it’s a good idea to get your booster shot now.
“Cases are low right now, and it’s a good time to get vaccinated,” she said.