Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 1, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

551.   A new subvariant is here, but the numbers of cases are decreasing in Connecticut.

         QAre we really in another upsurge of cases?

         A:  Not now.  Another form of the previous Omicron subvariant BA.2 has become the dominant version among new U.S. coronavirus cases, according to federal estimates last week.  There was no indication yet that the new subvariant, known as BA.2.12.1, causes more severe disease than earlier forms did.  But BA.2.12.1 made up about 58 percent of all new U.S. cases, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending May 21.  As June begins, the country is averaging more than 100,000 new confirmed cases per day for the first time since February, according to a New York Times database.  As of last week, there was an average of more than 24,700 people with the virus hospitalized nationally, an increase of 28% over the last two weeks.

The new subvariant, BA.2.12.1, spreads more rapidly than previous versions of Omicron including the form which sent U.S. cases soaring over the winter. The new version evolved from BA.2, which itself was more contagious than any variant that came before it.  The Omicron subvariants known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 accounted for more than 90 percent of new cases.

“Many Americans should consider wearing masks,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House’s new Covid-19 coordinator, said. “I feel very strongly, that in crowded indoor spaces, in places with high transmission, people should be doing that,” he said.  In a sign of growing concern, the C.D.C. said late last week that all people 50 or older should get a second booster shot if at least four months have passed since their first booster.

Conditions do appear to be stabilizing in some Northeastern states, and though still high, case rates are now going down in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Last week, the United States officially surpassed a total of one million known deaths from Covid-19, according to the John Hopkins University Dashboard.  That is the world’s highest confirmed death total and comes as the White House continues to call for Congress to pass stalled Covid aid for more treatments and vaccines.

552.  Ventilation and social distancing prove to be effective mitigation in gyms

         Q:  Is it safe to go to workout centers and gyms?

         A:  An important research study was published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   This study looked at the number of aerosol particles exhaled by 16 people at rest and during workouts. In an infected person, this microscopic airborne exhaled moisture (in cold weather what you can see as steam-like breaths) contain the Covid virus particles, called varioles.  Of course, not all the participants of this research were infected, but the intent of the study was to measure the effect of exercise on increased exhaled air containing the aerosol particles to identify how much more an infected person can concentrate the virus in ambient room air.

At rest, the participants breathed out about 500 moisture particles per minute, the study found. But when they exercised, that total soared to more than 76,000 particles per minute during the most strenuous exertion. These findings help explain why several notable Covid superspreader events have occurred at indoor gym classes.

But these risks can be mitigated.  Ask your gym staff to open the windows and make sure its air-conditioning units draw air from outside to replace air filled with aerosol emissions. Maintain distance from others — at least eight to 10 feet during strenuous workouts — and wear an N95 mask.  Also, check the rate of Covid cases in your community.

The stated reason for the study was not to close gyms during a surge in cases.  It “is more an incentive to ensure great ventilation and no crowding in gyms,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne transmission of viruses.  “There are so many benefits to exercise,” she added, “that I’ll keep doing it in my well-ventilated, uncrowded gym.”

553.  A large CDC study finds that many more people than expected have long Covid.

         Q:  What is the risk of getting long Covid if I get infected with coronavirus ? 

         A:  The problem of long Covid has been identified as a condition of prolonged convalescence from recovery from Covid-19 caused by dramatic, lingering health conditions such as brain fog and fatigue.  The CDC has completed a large new study that identified many more survivors of the disease with lingering but less dramatic chronic conditions that affected their health.  One in five adult Covid survivors under the age of 65 in the United States has experienced at least one health condition that could be considered long Covid.  Among patients 65 and older, the number is even higher: one in four.  In an indication of how seriously the federal health agency views the problem of long Covid, the authors of the study — members of the C.D.C.’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Team — recommended “routine assess­ment for post-Covid conditions among persons who survive Covid-19.”

People who had a history of one of the study’s 26 health conditions in the previous year were excluded from the study — an attempt by the researchers to consider medical issues that patients developed only after they had Covid.  The study included people admitted to hospitals, seen in emergency departments, or diagnosed in an outpatient setting.

The research evaluated electronic medical records for nearly two million people — comparing those who had been infected with the coronavirus with those who were not. The most common post-Covid conditions, regardless of age, were respiratory problems and musculoskeletal pain.  The risk of post-Covid patients aged 65 and older developing the 26 health conditions the study evaluated was between 20% and 120% greater than people who didn’t get Covid. Those aged 18 to 64 had a 10% to 110% greater risk than uninfected people of developing 22 of the health conditions.  Co-authors of the study said the results “can potentially translate into millions of people with newly developed diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and neurologic problems. These are lifelong conditions — certainly manageable, but not curable conditions.”

554. Some people who take Paxlovid to treat Covid-19 have a resurgence afterward.

         Q:  What is this “rebound” of Covid-19 after treatment that I am hearing about?

         A:  Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 needs to ask their physician if they should take Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral treatment for the disease. To be effective in preventing hospitalization and serious disease, Paxlovid should be taken within 5 days of symptoms’ first appearance.  The treatment consists of a total of 30 pills — three pills taken twice a day for five days.  A new problem with this treatment has recently surfaced.  Scientists and federal agencies say they had been investigating reports of Americans who say they faced a resurgence of COVID-19 soon after finishing taking Paxlovid.  This is often referred to as a “rebound” or “relapse” of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that patients who experience symptoms or test positive a second time should isolate again for at least five days and wear a mask. But the agency continues to recommend Paxlovid for high-risk patients that could experience serious complications from infection.  The aggravation of having to isolate again is well worth not getting serious disease and being hospitalized.

555.  Covid-19  is surging faster than our New England neighbors.

         Q:  Which states have the highest rates of vaccinations?  And the lowest?

         A:    The Most and Least Vaccinated US States

  (% of the population fully vaccinated)

Top Ranked

  1. Rhode Island (82.9%)
  2. Vermont (81.4%)
  3. Maine (79.9%)
  4. Connecticut (79.5%)
  5. Massachusetts (79.3%)

Bottom Ranked

  1. Wyoming (51%)
  2. Alabama (51.3%)
  3. Mississippi (52%)
  4. Louisiana (53.6%)
  5. Arkansas (54.6%)

           Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention