Five additional news items from this week:
- The CDC is not publicly releasing a lot of its COVID-19 data. Last weekend, New York Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli broke the news that the CDC has withheld a lot of its COVID-19 data from the public, including information on breakthrough cases, demographic data, and wastewater data. This news was honestly not surprising to me because it follows a pattern: the CDC doesn’t like to share information unless it can control the interpretations. But I appreciated the conversation brought on by this article, with public health experts saying they’d rather have imperfect data than a complete data void. (I agree!)
- BA.2 is definitely more transmissible than the original Omicron strain, but it does not appear to be significantly more severe or more capable of evading vaccines. Two recent posts, one in the New York Times COVID-19 updates page and one from Your Local Epidemiologist, share some updates on what scientists have learned about BA.2 in the past couple of weeks. In the U.S. and other countries with BA.2, this sublineage doesn’t seem to be causing a major rise in cases—at least so far.
- New CDC study shows the utility of rapid testing out of isolation. More than half of patients infected with the coronavirus tested positive on rapid antigen tests between five and nine days after their initial diagnosis or symptom onset, a new CDC report found. The report includes over 700 patients at a rural healthcare network in Alaska. These findings suggest that rapid testing out of isolation is a good way to avoid transmitting the virus to others, if one has the tests available.
- January saw record-high coronavirus infections in hospitals. POLITICO reporters analyzed hospitalization data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), finding that: “More than 3,000 hospitalized patients each week in January had caught Covid sometime during their stay, more than any point of the pandemic.” This high number demonstrates Omicron’s high capacity to infect other people.
- Hong Kong’s surge shows the value of vaccinations. Hong Kong has been a global leader in keeping COVID-19 cases low throughout the pandemic, yet Omicron has tested this territory’s strategy—causing record cases and overwhelming hospitals. One major issue for Hong Kong has been low vaccination rates, particularly among the elderly, as people did not see the need to get vaccinated when cases in the territory were practically nonexistent.