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Covid-19 trends haven’t changed in weeks and no one knows what’s next

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This is a dramatic improvement from this winter. At the peak of Omicron’s first wave, hospitalizations nearly quadrupled and deaths nearly sixfold, but the numbers are still stubbornly high.

And since the evolution of the coronavirus remains so elusive even two-and-a-half years after the pandemic, there’s a huge question mark as to what happens next.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, said: “All these things are still a mystery.”

BA.5 remains the predominant subvariant in the United States so far, causing most new cases, as it has since the last week of June.

data The Omicron faction accounted for 87% of new cases in the first week of August, up several percentage points from the previous week, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Tuesday.

The slight increase in prevalence indicates that other subspecies have not beaten it, and promises future trends.

BA.5 is “very formidable because it is highly contagious and has a very high ability to evade immune systems,” Topol said. However, the flattening of hospitalizations is “encouraging”, as it means that the subvariant has probably made it through most of the hosts it can find.

“For now the question is what happens when we derive from BA.5. That could take weeks.”

The CDC’s ensemble forecast predicts a steady trend in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks, and experts agree the worst wave is probably behind us.

But we continue to find people whose immunity to immunizations and infections has weakened over time, so we are doing well at high levels.This will continue to happen.Health.

Also, with children returning to school, seasonal changes and other changes on the horizon, it’s unclear when and to what extent the plateau will drop.

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“We expect the situation to get worse for at least the next month or so,” said Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist and genomic scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

“But, of course, there are other things waiting for us. If it’s not mutational, it will be seasonal.”

if still The trend doesn’t improve as expected, but potential future waves are unlikely to be as devastating as Delta or the original Omicron variant.

Alpha, Delta, and Omicron were “cousins, not children,” Feather said.

However, the changes that happened this year (BA.2 to BA.2.12.1 to BA.5) all “came from within Omicron” and the subvariants are much more similar to each other. He said that if the next variant is as different as the change from Delta to Omicron, it will be a “significant change” from what’s been happening lately.

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It’s not impossible, and great attention has been paid to the latest sub-variants that have emerged.

BA.4.6 increased from about 4% to just under 5% of US cases over the past week, according to CDC data.

As for immune evasion, that mutation isn’t “particularly worrisome,” Topol said, but we don’t know yet. That means there is an advantage, the more we have to worry about it.”

Another Omicron offshoot, BA.2.75, has not reached the CDC’s variant tracker. Less than 1% of U.S. cases, according to genetic sequencing firm Helix.

But Hanage says people are “watching with some trepidation” because there are more changes in the spike gene that could lead to more substantial immune escape and contagiousness.

There are still many unknown points. Such a combination of changes could lead to the next concern or go nowhere, he said.

Looking ahead, Hanage says there is “likely to be one step forward and two steps back” regarding the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And if the death toll exceeds 400 a day for a year, that’s more than double the worst recent flu season, he said.

“So those are the numbers we got at the moment, relatively speaking, when things are good,” he said. .”

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