Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — October 19, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 593.  The U.S. has extended its Covid-19 state of emergency another 90 days.

          Q:  Is federal money still available to help pay for the care of patients with Covid-19?

          A:  Kanishka Singh has reported in Reuters News last week that the United States has extended the COVID-19 pandemic’s status as a public health emergency for another 90 days, thereby preserving measures like high payments to hospitals and expanded Medicaid.  The extension was announced by U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has diminished significantly since early in Biden’s term when more than 3,000 Americans per day were dying, and as enhanced care, medications and vaccinations have become more widely available.  But hundreds of people a day continue to die from the coronavirus in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden has asked Congress for $22.4 billion more in funding to prepare for a potential case surge.

594.  The number of Covid-19 cases is rising in Europe, as demonstrated in England.

         Q:  Is there a surge of new Covid-19 cases anywhere in the world?

         A:  Several western European countries are reporting an increase in new cases.  The Guardian newspaper has reported a rise in level across most of the UK with 1.7 million people recently infected.  In England, about one in 35 people – 2.8% of the population – had Covid in the week ending October 3, according to the Office of National Statistics.  This incidence of Covid-19 cases was a 31% increase over that of a week earlier.

In England, increases in infection levels were recorded for all regions except the northeast in the most recent week, and for all age groups except those aged two years to school year 11 (aged 15-16). The highest levels of infection were seen for people aged 70 and over, with about 3.7% of this age group having had Covid in the most recent week.

Sarah Crofts, the deputy director for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, described the rise in infections amongst older age groups in England and Wales as “notable.”

However, National Health Service data suggests the rate of increase in Covid hospital admissions has slowed. In the seven days from 4-10 October there were 8,198 admissions, a 4% rise from 7,904 the week before.

The latest wave of infections appears in part to be caused by the BA.5 sub-variant of Omicron, and early relatives, including BA.5.2. However, new forms of Covid are emerging from BA.5 with some already making up a sizeable proportion of infections. As a result, experts have warned this winter is likely to involve a range of variants, akin to an “Omicron soup.”

Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said genomic surveillance was expensive and had been scaled back significantly, but it appeared some sub-variants were increasing faster than BA.5, while the increase of BA.5 in its many forms was of interest.

While some have said the current wave could be worse than the last, Edmunds suggested the dominance of BA.5 meant there was cause for optimism.  “My tentative guess would be that this BA.5 second wave will not be very large, as the decline in population immunity since the BA.5 peak in July is likely to be relatively modest,” he said.