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Coronavirus Update: COVID cases continue upward march as new, more infectious variants emerge and as flu, RSV and other respiratory illnesses spread


U.S. known cases of COVID continued their steady rise on Monday, along with hospitalizations, fatalities and test-positivity rates, raising concerns among health experts as other respiratory illnesses are also spreading.

The daily average for new cases stood at 65,709 on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 56% from two weeks ago. The average for hospitalizations was up 28% to an average of 38,324, while the number of deaths was up 40% to 466. Test positivity has climbed 28% to 12% in the period.

Seniors are especially at risk and account for a higher number of hospitalizations than younger people, with less than half of nursing-home residents up to date on vaccinations, the Associated Press reported.

“When it comes to protecting seniors, we’re doing a terrible job of that in this country,” Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told the AP.

The problem appears to stem from a combination of COVID fatigue, misinformation regarding the updated boosters and complacency. In some areas, there is reluctance to prescribe the antiviral Paxlovid to the elderly in a timely fashion. Paxlovid was developed by Pfizer

In an attempt to counter that trend, five major medical societies held a web-based educational session for doctors called “Vax & Pax: How to Keep Your Patients Safe This Winter,” according to the AP report.

But easing restrictions and a shift away from public-health messaging regarding measures such as face masks are also adding to the perception that the pandemic is no longer a deadly threat, particularly among younger adults.

But as data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Friday, newer, more infectious variants are replacing earlier ones, and while they so far appear no less lethal, they are able to spread faster and evade immunity better. The public also needs a better understanding that breakthrough infections don’t mean the vaccines are not working, but that their main role is to prevent severe illness and death.

Meanwhile, hospital emergency rooms are also seeing high numbers of patients with flu or strep throat and of children with RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

COVID cases are currently climbing in 46 of the 50 states, led by Nebraska, where they are up 408% from two weeks ago, followed by Oklahoma, where they are up 211%, the Times tracker shows.

Vermont is leading for hospitalizations, which have climbed 67% from two weeks ago, followed by Alabama, where they are up 54%.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• China will drop a travel-tracking requirement as it makes an uncertain exit from its strict zero-COVID policies, which have elicited widespread dissatisfaction, the AP reported. At midnight on Monday, the smartphone tracking app will cease to function, meaning residents’ travels will no longer be traced and recorded, potentially reducing the likelihood they will be forced into quarantine as a result of having visited a pandemic hot spot. China’s ruling Communist Party allows no independent parties to conduct verification and has used such apps in the past to suppress travel and free speech. Facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, China is setting up more intensive care facilities and trying to strengthen hospitals’ ability to deal with severe cases.

Some movie theaters in China reopened and COVID-testing booths were dismantled ahead of an announcement by authorities on Wednesday to scrap most testing and quarantine requirements. The changes come after nationwide protests against Beijing’s zero-COVID policy. Photo: Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

• China and Germany have reached an agreement on providing German vaccines to German nationals in China, after the German chancellor recently stated that BioNTech’s

COVID-19 vaccine would be used by German expatriates, Reuters reported. Relevant arrangements will be discussed and determined by the two sides through diplomatic channels, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Friday at a regular press conference.

• Health experts in the U.K. are warning of strain on the National Health System as COVID infections climb again just as the holiday party season begins, the Financial Times reported. Case numbers rose in England in the week through Nov. 26, for a second straight week. They were higher in Northern Ireland for the first time in a month, according to the coronavirus infection survey published by the Office for National Statistics. The outlook was uncertain in Scotland and Wales and in some English regions.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 649.1 million on Monday, while the death toll rose above 6.65 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 99.4 million cases and 1,084,440 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 228.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.9% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.

So far, just 42 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants, equal to 13.5% of the overall population.

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