By Peter Lowewi
As cases continue to rise across the country, the White House resumed weekly COVID briefings. Briefings had stopped on April 5 as cases, hospitalizations and death rates across the country had declined, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about half the country lives in a community with moderate or high levels of COVID. The seven-day average of new cases surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday, May 24, for the fifth straight day.
The reason for the increase in cases appears to lie in the extraordinary ability of the new Omicron subvariants to bypass protection from previous infection with other Omicron variants as well. Two pre-print papers coming out this month, meaning they’re yet to be peer-reviewed, suggest that even if you were infected during the first Omicron wave, there’s still a not-inconsiderable chance that You will be reinfected in future Omicron waves. BA2.12.1 is currently the dominant strain in the US. The Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services didn’t recently update its variant dashboard, but as of April 10, the variant accounted for five percent of all cases in Alaska and is rising exponentially.
“If we handle it the way we’re doing it now, most people will get infected with it at least a few times a year,” Kristian Andersen, a virologist at Scripps Research Institute who was not involved with either paper, told the New York Times . “The way to get a handle on it isn’t, ‘Let’s all infect everyone a few times a year and then hope for the best.'”
In Alaska, the regions with the highest number of cases currently are Skagway, Sitka and Juneau. One possible reason for this is the return of cruise ships. Alaska Public Media, Anchorage Daily News and KTOO have all reported on the high number of cases on cruise ships in the last month. Of the 92 ships currently reported to the CDC’s Cruise Ship Status Dashboard, 84 have case rates high enough to warrant investigation. At least two are currently in or en route to Alaskan waters, and one, the Roald Amundsen, is scheduled to dock in Nome later this summer.
On May 16, the CDC also updated its recommendations for domestic travel, saying all travelers “should consider getting tested as close as possible to departure (no more than 3 days) before your trip.” The recommendations also read: “Get tested after your trip if your trip included situations with a higher risk of exposure, e.g. B. in crowded places without wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator.”
On Monday, May 23, Pfizer released data from its study of vaccines in children ages six months to five years. After ineffective results late last year, a three-dose system is 80 percent effective against symptomatic infections, the company said. An independent FDA advisory panel will meet in mid-June to decide on emergency use approval for it and a Moderna vaccine for children ages 6 to 17.
The CDC’s Health Alert Network sent out an advisory Tuesday, May 24, letting people know about what they’re calling a “COVID rebound.” After treating mild to moderate COVID with the still-recommended drug Paxlovid, some people experience symptoms again in the first week. These people can spread the virus and should be isolated for at least another five days, but the advisory guidance currently contains no evidence that additional treatment is required.
The week in numbers:
On Tuesday, May 17, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified a new case in Nome. There were five active cases in the area, all in Nome.
On Wednesday, May 18, NSHC identified four new cases, again all in Nome. Active cases increased to eight known cases.
On Thursday, May 19, NSHC identified two more new cases, both in Nome. This brought the known number of active cases in Nome to 10.
Over the weekend of Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22, NSHC identified six new cases of COVID-19, all in Nome. Active cases fell to five over the weekend.
On Monday, May 23, NSHC identified five new cases of COVID-19. Three cases were in Nome and two in Unalakleet.
There are currently seven active cases in the area: five in Nome and two in Unalakleet.
Since the beginning of the pandemic:
The United States of America has had 83,468,803 officially reported cases of COVID-19 and 1,002,557 related deaths.
Alaska, which last updated its numbers on May 18, has had at least 249,522 cases, 3,762 hospitalizations and 1,252 deaths. There are currently 44 people in hospital due to COVID-19, the most in 10 weeks.
Nome, the Bering Strait and the Norton Sound region have had at least 6,007 known cases of COVID-19, 44 hospitalizations and six deaths.