The Fourth U.S. Wave of COVID-19 Could Be Ebbing. The Fifth Might Be Worse

Fourth COVID Wave Could Be Ebbing. The Fifth Might Be Worse | Time

We May Be in for a Repeat of Last Winter

It may feel like eons ago, but try to recall summer 2020: While there were coronavirus surges in some parts of the country, national case rates were low. In some areas, the virus almost faded away entirely. But of course, the respite didn’t last. Cases began rising again in the fall of 2020, peaking at an average of more than 250,000 per day in January 2021.

The U.S. may be in for something even worse this year, my colleague Chris Wilson warns.

After a heartbreakingly bad summer, the virus’ spread appears to be ebbing, Chris writes. As of today, the U.S. is reporting about 145,000 diagnoses per day—too high for comfort, but at least a modest downward trend from over 160,000 daily cases at the end of August. In many hotspot states, diagnoses are significantly lower than they were a month or two ago.

But kids are now returning to school, cooler weather will force social gatherings indoors and holiday travel season will soon be upon us. With the highly contagious Delta variant now the dominant strain and millions of Americans still unvaccinated, we may be heading for a repeat of last year.

Of course, the situation isn’t exactly the same. More than half the population (and counting) is fully vaccinated, and many other people have at least some level of natural immunity after surviving an infection. That will certainly help keep cases down, but it may not be enough. As Chris points out, seven U.S. states set new daily case records this summer, even with vaccines widely available. As long as there are millions of unvaccinated people in the U.S., the virus will find a way to spread—particularly when it’s as contagious as the Delta variant.

So what can you do? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the advice is the same as ever: get vaccinated if you haven’t, get your kids vaccinated if they’re old enough, wear masks if you gather with people indoors and stay home if you feel unwell.

President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday that broadly expanded mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or at least compulsory weekly testing is a sign, possibly, that the administration sees the writing on the wall. Even with tentative but promising signs that the fourth wave of surging cases in COVID-19 in the United States, dating back to the first days of summer, was waning, without drastic measures, the fifth will be catastrophically worse.

The new requirements are estimated to affect about 100 million people, including most federal workers and a substantial number of private sector employees—many of whom are already vaccinated. This would largely affect working-age residents (age 18-64), who currently number above 200 million, of whom 59.8% are vaccinated, according to TIME’s analysis of daily figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That leaves more than 80 million who remain unvaccinated, though the White House orders will only cover a fraction of them.

The question is now: What happens this fall and winter, when children are at school and Americans once again travel for the holidays? In spite of desperate warnings from the CDC that people stay home for last year’s holiday, they largely did not, which led to the third spike in cases, which reached heights that dwarfed the first two. That doesn’t bode well for Christmas 2021, especially given that, in this current, fourth wave, seven states have already surpassed their previous peaks in cases (with another four doing nearly as poorly):

Within the next several days, we may see a modest surge from travel over the Labor Day weekend, but the real test will come in about two months—still all too soon. The holidays always sneak up on us. Under one possibility, many millions of Americans may be bolstered by a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, though this will be scant protection for those who have yet to receive a first.

Evidence that surging cases could inspire more unvaccinated Americans to change their mind was initially encouraging, but did not extend indefinitely. Should the fourth wave recede considerably, it may take a fifth to convince a significantly greater number.

Implementing a long overdue vaccine mandate

https://mailchi.mp/60a059924012/the-weekly-gist-september-10-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

There's a Lot That Can Go Wrong With 'Vaccine Passports'

Declaring that “our patience is wearing thin” with Americans who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, President Biden announced sweeping new plans to implement vaccine mandates on Thursday.

Businesses that employ more than 100 people must require their employees to get vaccinated or face weekly COVID testing, federal workers and contractors must be vaccinated or face disciplinary measures, and all healthcare organizations that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds must ensure 100 percent employee vaccination as a condition of continued participation in those federal payment programs. The healthcare component of the mandate will impact about 17 million workers, including those at hospitals, surgery centers, dialysis facilities, and home health agencies. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) already requires nursing home workers to be vaccinated, and yesterday announced plans to release a new regulation by October 1st, implementing the expanded mandate. According to Fierce Healthcare, at least 172 hospital systems have already announced some form of vaccine mandate, but others have expressed concerns that forcing workers to get vaccinated might exacerbate labor shortages and result in employees seeking work elsewhere.
 
Responding to President Biden’s announcement, the American Hospital Association (AHA) echoed those concerns, citing “the critical challenges that we are facing in maintaining the resiliency of our workforce.” In our view, that concern pales in comparison to the imperative to protect patients by reducing the potential for exposure by unvaccinated caregivers. If anything, the national healthcare mandate should provide cover for those hospitals and care providers that have shied away from mandates, letting other organizations take the lead. Once universal healthcare mandates are implemented, vaccine resistant workers will find few employment alternatives left, significantly dampening the risk of widespread resignations. If you don’t want to take the necessary precautions to keep patients safe, you shouldn’t be working in healthcare in the first place. Yesterday’s mandate announcement, while aggressive, is overdue.

Howard Stern blasts unvaccinated Americans, casting vaccine mandate as ‘freedom to live’

Howard Stern was reflecting this week on the coronavirus deaths of four conservative talk-radio hosts who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments when he took aim at those who have refused to get vaccinated.

“I want my freedom to live,” he said Tuesday on his SiriusXM program. “I want to get out of the house. I want to go next door and play chess. I want to go take some pictures.”

The shock jock, who advocated for the coronavirus vaccine to be mandatory, then turned his attention to the hesitancy that has played a significant role in the U.S. spread of the virus, leading to what Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”He pointed to unvaccinated people who are “clogging” up overwhelmed hospitals, calling them “imbeciles” and “nut jobs” and suggesting that doctors and nurses not treat those who have not taken a coronavirus vaccine.

“I’m really of mind to say, ‘Look, if you didn’t get vaccinated [and] you got covid, you don’t get into a hospital,’ ” he said. “You had the cure and you wouldn’t take it.”

Stern’s comments come after several other celebrities expressed to their large social media audiences their frustration with the ongoing lag in vaccinations when hospitals are being pushed to their limits by the highly transmissible delta variant.

More than 185,000 coronavirus infections were reported Wednesday across the United States, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Nearly 102,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19; more than 26,000 are in intensive care units. A slight decline in hospitalizations over the past week has inspired cautious optimism among public health leaders.

While there is not a nationwide vaccine mandate, President Biden is expected to sign an executive order Thursday requiring that all federal employees be vaccinated, without an alternative for regular coronavirus testing to opt out of the mandate, The Post reported. The order affecting the estimated 2.1 million federal workers comes as Biden plans to outline a “robust plan to stop the spread of the delta variant and boost covid-19 vaccinations,” the White House said.

Health officials, doctors and nurses nationwide have urged those still hesitant to get vaccinated — and some have gone a step further. Jason Valentine, a physician in Mobile, Ala., informed patients last month that he would not treat anyone who was unvaccinated, saying there were “no conspiracy theories, no excuses” preventing anyone from being vaccinated. Linda Marraccini, a doctor in South Miami, said this month that she would not treat unvaccinated patients in person, noting that her office would “no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk.”

The summer surge also has led celebrities to use their platform to either call on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated or to denounce them for not doing so. Actor and activist Sean Penn said the vaccine should be mandatory and has called on Hollywood to implement vaccination guidelines on film sets. Actors Benicio Del Toro and Zoe Saldana were part of a vaccine video campaign this year to help debunk misinformation about coronavirus vaccination. When actress Melissa Joan Hart revealed her breakthrough coronavirus case last month, she said she was angry that the nation “got lazy” about getting vaccinated and that masking was not required at her children’s school.

Late-night talk host Jimmy Kimmel suggested Tuesday that hospitals shouldn’t treat unvaccinated patients who prefer to take ivermectin — a medicine long used to kill parasites in animals and humans that has soared in popularity despite being an unproven covid-19 treatment and the subject of warnings by health officials against its use for the coronavirus. After noting that Anthony S. Fauci, the chief medical adviser to Biden, warned that some hospitals might be forced to make “tough choices” on who gets an ICU bed, the late-night host quipped that the situation was not difficult.

That choice doesn’t seem so tough to me,” Kimmel said. “Vaccinated person having a heart attack? Yes, come right in; we’ll take care of you. Unvaccinated guy who gobbled horse goo? Rest in peace, wheezy.”

Stern has featured front-line workers on his show and has advocated for people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In December, the host interviewed Cody Turner, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, about how the front-line doctor struggled with his mental health while treating infected patients when a vaccine was not widely available.

“We are drowning and we are in hell, and people don’t understand, not only what’s happening to people, you know, but patients across this country,” Turner said.

Stern was a fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, saying last year that his former friend was “treasonous” for telling supporters to attend large rallies, despite the risk of infection, in the run-up to the presidential election.

On his eponymous program this week, Stern referred to four conservative talk-radio hosts who bashed the vaccine and eventually died of the virus: Marc Bernier, 65; Phil Valentine, 61; Jimmy DeYoung, 81; and Dick Farrel, 65. In the weeks and months leading up to their deaths last month, all four men had publicly shared their opposition to mainstream public health efforts when coronavirus infections were spiking.

“Four of them were like ranting on the air — they will not get vaccinated,” Stern said Tuesday. “They were on fire … they were all dying and then their dying words were, ‘I wish I had been more into the vaccine. I wish I had taken it.’ ”

After he played a clip of Bernier saying he would not get vaccinated, Stern suggested that the coronavirus vaccine be considered as normal as a measles or mumps vaccine.

“When are we going to stop putting up with the idiots in this country and just say it’s mandatory to get vaccinated?” he asked.

Biden unveiled a vaccine mandate for nursing homes. What does it mean for the staffing crisis?

Rethinking How We Approach Long-Term Care In The U.S. | On Point

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden unveiled a new plan requiring nursing homes to vaccinate their employees or lose federal funding. Industry members are concerned the mandate will exacerbate current staffing shortages and make it harder for facilities to care for their residents. 

Biden ties employee vaccination to federal funding for nursing homes

Biden announced on Wednesday that nursing homes will have to require their workers be vaccinated against Covid-19 to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, the New York Times reports.

CMS is expected to release an emergency rule covering this new requirement in September, according to Roll Call. Officials said the decision will affect more than 15,000 nursing homes with around 1.3 million workers across the country.

In a statement, CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said, “Keeping nursing home residents and staff safe is our priority. The data are clear that higher levels of staff vaccination are linked to fewer outbreaks among residents, many of whom are at an increased risk of infection, hospitalization, or death.”

As of Aug. 8, federal data showed that around 62% of all nursing home staff are currently vaccinated. But vaccination rates vary widely by state, with a high of 88% in some states and a low of 44% in others.

In addition, according to data from CMS, nationwide Covid-19 cases in nursing homes have increased from 319 cases on June 27 to 2,696 cases on Aug. 8. Since the beginning of the pandemic, federal data shows that around 134,000 nursing home residents and nearly 2,000 employees have died from Covid-19.

How will the vaccine mandate affect nursing homes?

According to Roll Call, divisions among nursing home staff about a vaccine mandate has some people in the industry—which has long suffered staffing shortages—concerned that even more workers will leave.

Lori Porter, CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, said she is worried the industry could lose 20% to 30% of its workforce over the new vaccine requirement.

And Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said a broader vaccine mandate for all health care organizations, instead of just nursing homes, is necessary to prevent further staffing shortages.

“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents,” Parkinson said. “It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse.”

Similarly, Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, a nonprofit that represents more than 5,000 aging services providers, said the vaccine mandate should be extended to all health care workers in all settings. She also voiced concern that cutting funding to nursing homes will further hurt facilities that have struggled financially throughout the pandemic.

“Without Medicaid and Medicare funding, nursing homes cannot provide the quality care that our nation’s most vulnerable older adults need,” Smith Sloan said. “Our mission-driven nursing home members, who operate on narrow margins in the best of times, depend on those funds alone to care for their residents.”

Separately, David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said funding cuts could put some nursing homes “in a precarious position” and that he believes there will be a “tremendous amount of pushback in the industry.”

Grabowski noted that while a national vaccine mandate could “level the playing field” for nursing homes looking for employees, they may still struggle to retain employees with jobs in other areas, such as retail or hotels, offering similar pay. “I think this is a good measure, but it needs to be paired with additional resources to help pay staff and make sure these are jobs they want to stay in,” he said. (Clason, Roll Call, 8/18; LaFraniere et al., New York Times, 8/18; Christ, Modern Healthcare, 8/18) 

Advisory Board’s take

This is a bold step—but it’s the right thing to do. Here’s why.

Mandating vaccinations for staff in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) is definitely a bold step—but ensuring all staff are vaccinated is unquestionably the right thing to do. As health care leaders, it is our responsibility to care for our patients, our staff, and our communities, and during this pandemic, vaccination is the best way to do that. 

Nationally, staff working in post-acute and long-term care settings have been among the groups most hesitant to take a Covid-19 vaccine. The combination of the extremely vulnerable patient populations in those settings and the lack of voluntary vaccination was likely what motivated this move.

I don’t want to imply this will be easy. Many SNFs will struggle to achieve universal vaccination, and there is understandable fear associated with having to let go of staff in what is an extremely tight staffing environment. 

However, in my view, the staffing implications will be less severe than many believe. In some ways, a national mandate actually makes it easier for providers, because individual staff members can’t simply go work for another facility in order to avoid getting their shot. And as more and more employers across the country begin to mandate vaccinations—a list that so far includes large employers like Walmart and Tyson Foods—staff members will have minimal opportunities for alternate work arrangements that do not require them to get the vaccine. For many staff, even those who have refused in the past, the elimination of other options that would allow them to remain unvaccinated may give them the push they need to get the vaccine.

Some staff will refuse and leave the industry. In the short term, this will increase pressure on already tight staffing. In the medium to long term, however, a fully vaccinated workforce is better for providers. It’s better for recruiting, because it attracts potential workers who want to be in a safer environment. It’s better for the existing workforce, who will likely need to take fewer sick days. And it’s better for the reputation of the industry. In our summer consumer survey, we found that 76% of respondents would be more likely to receive care at a skilled nursing facility if all of that facility’s staff were vaccinated. Staff vaccination helps build a level of community trust in the safety of the facility, which will be critical as SNFs seek to return to growth during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Check out our resources for building consumer confidence in post-acute and senior care during and beyond a crisis. For help with how to prepare your staff and residents for the vaccine rollout at your facility, review our guide for long-term care leaders.

Employee badges to identify vaccination status a hit, Wisconsin health system says

Covid-19 vaccine buttons, T-shirts, and merch are selling out fast on Etsy  - Vox

About 8,000 Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System employees have requested black ID badge reels to indicate they are fully vaccinated, the health system told Becker’s Aug. 11.

The nine-hospital health system, which has more than 12,000 employees, started offering the black reels in July. Many Marshfield employees are already required to wear white reels. However, the new black reels are voluntary. Employees who have them may meet in person, but must be masked, if all meeting attendees are vaccinated, the health system said. 

“We all look forward to having the opportunity to interact with co-workers outside of the virtual world,” said health system spokesperson Jeff Starck. “The badge reels are a way for more personal interaction and create a sense of normalcy for many employees during what has been a challenging, mostly virtual work environment. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Mr. Starck said that some employees may not have not asked for the new reels because they use clips or other devices to display their name badges. Employees who work off-site and don’t attend in-person meetings may not have requested them since they haven’t needed them, and some employees who are vaccinated simply may not want to identify themselves, he speculated. 

Marshfield Clinic announced Aug. 4 that it would require employees to become fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 15.

As of Aug. 11, about 72 percent of employees are vaccinated, although the health system said that number will rise as it receives proof of vaccination from employees who were inoculated outside the health system. 

CommonSpirit Health mandates COVID-19 vaccination for employees in 21 states

About Us | Serving the Common Good | CommonSpirit Health

CommonSpirit Health is requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for its 150,000 employees, the Chicago-based health system said Aug. 12. 

The requirement applies to employees at CommonSpirit’s 140 hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites and facilities in 21 states. It includes physicians, advanced practice providers, volunteers and others caring for patients at health system facilities. 

“As healthcare providers, we have a responsibility to help end this pandemic and protect our patients, our colleagues and those in our communities —  including the most vulnerable among us,” Lloyd H. Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit, said in a news release. “An abundance of evidence shows that the vaccines are safe and highly effective. Throughout the pandemic we have made data-driven decisions that will help us best fulfill our healing mission, and requiring vaccination is critical to maintaining a safe care environment.”

The compliance deadline for the vaccination requirement is Nov. 1, although the implementation date will vary by region in accordance with local and state regulations. Employees who are not in compliance and do not obtain a medical or religious exemption risk losing their jobs.

How the delta variant took over the US

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/567843-how-the-delta-variant-took-over-the-us

3 Things You Need to Know About the Delta Variant - COVID-19, Featured,  Health Topics - Hackensack Meridian Health

The delta variant has overtaken the U.S. in a matter of weeks as it spreads around the world in what President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci called a “global outbreak” of the strain.

The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is considered at least two times more contagious than the previously dominant alpha strain, and experts say the increased transmissibility has likely fueled the surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide.

But much is still unknown about delta as scientists scramble to better understand the strain.

Here’s what we know about the delta strain and how it blunted earlier momentum in the fight against the coronavirus.


Delta is more transmissible than previous COVID-19 strains

Delta’s contagiousness is considered key to its domination, having spread to at least 117 countries after first being detected in India. Like other viruses, COVID-19 is evolving, particularly through unplanned mutations.

A study from the United Kingdom in May suggested the delta strain could be 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant, which was already more contagious than the original strain.

But experts are split on that figure, with some saying delta could be more transmissible and others saying it could be less.

“You don’t necessarily want to attribute that all to the virus. You know, a lot of it may reflect the people as well,” said David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers aren’t certain about what makes the delta variant more transmissible, but there are some clues.

Michael Farzan, head of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, said one of the variant’s advantages is that it can more strongly attach to a certain receptor when spreading in the body.

“This is one of the reasons why the virus … in a person gets made at a higher level, meaning that there’s a lot more being spit out or coughed out, meaning that it’s more likely to hit the next person,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has its own figures illustrating how the strain became so prevalent this summer. The agency’s latest projection is that 97.4 percent of all coronavirus cases come from all the different lineages of the delta variant, as of the week ending last weekend.

That marks an astronomical increase from the 1.6 percent estimated at the beginning of May and the 14.1 percent from the beginning of June.

Most people infected with COVID-19 at this point won’t know for sure whether they contracted the delta strain since available testing doesn’t make the distinction between strains — it only shows whether the virus itself is present.


It has a higher magnitude of viral loads

Health experts are examining the delta variant’s viral load, the measure of how much virus a person carries and can potentially transmit, compared to previous COVID-19 strains.

A study from China suggested that the strain’s viral load could be more than 1,000 times higher than the original strain, which Fauci on Thursday said “is a mechanistic reason why you have such a tremendous increase in transmissibility.”

Basically a higher viral load can make it more likely that an infected person can “shed” the virus, allowing someone nearby to contract it.

“If a little droplet that you sent out, it has more particles and that means it’s more likely to infect the next person over and it’s more likely to infect the next person over more times,” Farzan said.

Dowdy of Johns Hopkins cautioned that other variables, including people’s behavior, may be influencing how scientists understand delta’s viral load. With more people relaxing their COVID-19 precautions and interacting with others indoors, those same people could contract more of the virus than they might otherwise.

A study of a Massachusetts outbreak indicated that delta led to fully vaccinated people having a similar viral load compared to the unvaccinated, sparking the CDC to update its mask guidance late last month.

The outbreak on Cape Cod, where nearly three-quarters of confirmed cases were among fully vaccinated people, suggested that vaccinated people could potentially transmit and spread the delta variant. But researchers said at the time that microbiological studies would be needed to confirm whether vaccinated individuals can transmit the strain.


Vaccines are still effective against delta

Studies have found that at least five vaccines, including all three used in the U.S., are effective against the delta variant in lab and real-world settings, Fauci said on Thursday.

It was previously unclear whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose instead of two, was equally effective. But a study released last week found the immune response lasted at least eight months, resulting in the first real-world data for the vaccine, Fauci said.

Recent studies have indicated that vaccines may see a very slight dip in effectiveness against symptomatic versions of the coronavirus caused by the delta variant. The COVID-19 vaccines, like any other, are also not perfect at preventing all delta infection and illness.

But scientists agree that studies have demonstrated that the vaccinated population is less likely to get infected and much less likely to be hospitalized or die from the delta variant than the unvaccinated.

“The only reason our case numbers are lower now than they were back in December is because half of our population has been fully vaccinated,” Dowdy said.


Still more to learn
 

Experts acknowledge there is much more to learn about the delta variant.

“A big thing is we still don’t know how much of what we’re seeing is due to the virus versus due to behavior,” Dowdy said. “That makes a big difference because things that are due to the virus, we can’t really change as a society.”

Although there’s a growing number of studies, not all scientists are certain that the variant itself necessarily causes more serious illness among the unvaccinated, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths. It’s also unclear whether the strain is sparking more severe illness among children as pediatric hospital admissions have picked up.

Additionally, scientists have more analysis to do on under-researched mutations that may give the virus more of an advantage, Farzan said.

Driven by the Delta Variant, the Fourth Wave of COVID-19 in the U.S. Could Be Worse Than the Third. In Some States, It Already Is

Why the delta variant is hitting kids hard in the U.S. and how we can  prevent that in Canada | CBC News

Just a month ago, even as signs of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. were blossoming in the lower Midwest, the memory of a long, miserable winter kept us warm. Even places with burgeoning case rates were far below their catastrophic peaks over the holidays, when a combination of cold weather and defiant travelers contributed to a third wave in infections and deaths that drowned out the previous two spikes in April and July of 2020.

This is regrettably no longer the case. In four states—Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida—the current number of daily new COVID-19 infections, averaged across seven days, has surpassed that winter peak, even with a substantial percentage of the population having received a complete dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine (though not nearly as many as public officials would prefer).

Hawaii is something of an anomaly, as its winter peak was not nearly as high as in colder, more accessible regions. But several other states threaten to join this quartet in the near future. Oregon’s daily rate of new infections is at 36.5 per 100,000 residents, or 99% of the peak value on Dec. 3, 2020. Nationwide, the rate is 37.7, just under 50% of the winter peak of 76.5.

While plenty of states remain far below the winter peaks, as the Delta variant tears across the country, we can expect more and more states to experience a fourth wave that crests higher than the third, even as new outbreaks are inspiring more vaccine holdouts to hold out their biceps and breakthrough infections, while frightening and non-trivial, remain reasonably rare.

What is perhaps most sobering about this surge is that COVID-19-related deaths, which typically lag behind case surges by about two weeks, are starting to rise again. No state has yet surpassed the winter peak in deaths, but at 65%, Louisiana very well may. That figure is still 15% nationwide, well below the Jan. 13, 2021 peak of 1.04 fatalities per 100,000 people. It is currently at 0.16.

When it comes to the pandemic, no one wants to sound like Chicken Little. The sky might not be falling. But neither is the national case rate, or the number of people dying.

Vaccination shortfall making it harder to fully staff hospitals

https://mailchi.mp/ef14a7cfd8ed/the-weekly-gist-august-6-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

Your Messages of Support | Emerson Hospital

With vaccine mandates on the rise among healthcare organizations, including many of the health systems we work with, we’ve begun to hear a new argument in favor of getting staff vaccinated—one that weighs against the worry that mandates will drive scarce clinical workers away.

With staffing already stretched, some systems have been concerned that implementing mandates could worsen shortages and force an increase in the use of costly agency labor. But, some executives are now telling us, so could not vaccinating staff. As the highly contagious Delta variant continues to sweep through unvaccinated populations, clinical workers who haven’t gotten their shots are especially susceptible to contracting the virus.

That’s driven a sharp increase in unvaccinated nurses and other workers calling out sick with COVID symptoms, which has made a difficult staffing situation even worse.

Some of the high-profile reports of hospitals running out of beds in the face of the Delta variant are actually driven by running out of staff to keep those beds in use—making it even more critical to ensure that frontline workers are protected against the virus.

As a growing number of hospitals and other care facilities mandate that their workers get vaccinated, we’d hope this unwelcome pressure on an already stretched workforce begins to wane.

About 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly Covid-19 breakthrough case, CDC data shows

https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/31/health/fully-vaccinated-people-breakthrough-hospitalization-death/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0zCYf_qFiMcaHs0D0HbdHNrWkHzt4j6mmxWgfDD_-r5GkmJA9tm-MgaAU

About 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly Covid-19  breakthrough case, CDC data shows

More than 99.99% of people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The data highlights what leading health experts across the country have highlighted for months: Covid-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and death from Covid-19 and are the country’s best shot at slowing the pandemic down and avoiding further suffering.The CDC reported 6,587 Covid-19 breakthrough cases as of July 26, including 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths. At that time, more than 163 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Divide those severe breakthrough cases by the total fully vaccinated population for the result: less than 0.004% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough case that led to hospitalization and less than 0.001% of fully vaccinated people died from a breakthrough Covid-19 case.

Most of the breakthrough cases — about 74% — occurred among adults 65 or older.

Since May, the CDC has focused on investigating only hospitalized or fatal Covid-19 cases among people who have been fully vaccinated. The agency says the data relies on “passive and voluntary reporting” and is a “snapshot” to “help identify patterns and look for signals among vaccine breakthrough cases.”

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections,” according to the CDC.

The agency shared a study this week that showed the Delta variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. Experts continue to say that vaccination makes it less likely you’ll catch Covid-19 in the first place. But for those who do, the findings suggest they could have a similar tendency to spread it as unvaccinated people. That study also convinced CDC leaders to update the agency’s mask guidance on Tuesday, recommending that fully vaccinated people also wear masks indoors when in areas with “substantial” and “high” Covid-19 transmission to prevent further spread of the Delta variant. Guidance for unvaccinated people remains to continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. Beyond severe cases, an analysis of official state data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that breakthrough cases of any kind are also extremely rare.vAbout half of states report data on Covid-19 breakthrough cases, and in each of those states, less than 1% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough infection, ranging from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.9% in Oklahoma.

The KFF analysis also found that more than 90% of cases — and more than 95% of hospitalizations and deaths — have been among unvaccinated people. In most states, more than 98% of cases were among the unvaccinated.

Pace of vaccinations is going up

Health care workers assist a patient in the ICU inside Little Company of Mary Medical Center on July 30, 2021 in Torrance, California

But experts say those vaccinated, while they may be able to transmit the virus, remain very well protected against getting seriously ill. Amid the latest surge of Covid-19 cases nationwide fueled by the Delta variant, local leaders across the US are reporting that the majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people. The Delta variant is now so contagious, one former health official recently warned that people who are not protected — either through vaccination or previous infection — will likely get it. Amid concerns over the rising cases and the dangerous strain, the country has seen a steady rise in the pace of vaccinations in the past three weeks — and an even sharper increase in states that had been lagging the most, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.

The seven-day average of new doses administered in the US is now 652,084, up 26% from three weeks ago. The difference is even more striking in several southern states: Alabama’s seven-day average of new doses administered is more than double what it was three weeks ago. The state has the lowest rate of its total population fully vaccinated in the US, at roughly 34%. Arkansas, with just 36% of its population fully vaccinated, has also seen its average daily rate of doses administered double in the last three weeks. Louisiana, which had by far the most new Covid-19 cases per capita last week and has only fully vaccinated 37% of its population, saw daily vaccination rates rise 111% compared to three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Missouri, which has been among the hardest-hit states in the latest Covid-19 surge, now has a daily average of new vaccinations 87% higher than three weeks ago.

Roughly 57.5% of the US population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and about 49.5% is fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.