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US records 100 million cases of Covid, but more than 200 million Americans probably have had it

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The US has recorded more than 100 million formally diagnosed and reported cases of Covid-19 this week, but the number of Americans who have actually had the virus since the start of the pandemic is likely to more than double..

Covid-19 has easily infected over 200 million in the US alone since the start of the pandemic – some people more than once. The virus continues to evolve into more transmissible variants that evade immunity from vaccination and previous infection, making transmission incredibly difficult to control as we enter the fourth year of the pandemic.

The US officially recorded more than 100 million cases on Tuesday, just under a third of the total population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data is not perfect and likely represents a gross underestimate of the true number of infections, the scientists say. While it counts people who tested positive more than once or got Covid multiple times, it does not capture the number of Covid patients who were asymptomatic and never tested or tested at home and did not report.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC in the Obama administration, estimates that the reported data reflect less than half of the actual total.

“There have been at least 200 million infections in the US, so this is a small portion of them,” Frieden said. “The question really is whether we will be better prepared for Covid and other health threats going forward, and the jury is still out on that,” he said.

The CDC estimated last spring that nearly 187 million people in the US had caught Covid at least once by February 2022, more than double the number of officially reported cases at the time. The estimate was based on a survey of commercial laboratory data that found that about 58% of Americans had antibodies as a result of a Covid infection. The survey did not account for reinfections or antibodies from vaccination.

Subsequently, the CDC recorded more than 21 million confirmed cases from March to December 21 of this year, although this is an understatement because people using rapid tests at home are not included in the data.

The more than 21 million additional confirmed cases on top of the CDC’s February estimate of about 187 million total infections provides a low estimate of more than 208 million infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s really hard to stop this virus, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve shifted our focus to hospitalizations and deaths rather than just counting cases,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Health. public.

The US has made significant progress since the darkest days of the pandemic. Deaths have dropped by about 90% since the peak of the pandemic in January 2021, when more than 3,000 people succumbed to the virus daily before widespread vaccination. Daily hospital admissions are down 77% from a peak of over 21,000 in January 2022 during the massive omicron surge.

Despite this progress, deaths and hospitalizations remain stubbornly high due to the wide availability of vaccines and treatments. Around 400 people still die a day from the virus and around 5,000 are admitted to hospital daily. The virus is still circulating at what would have been considered a high level at the start of the pandemic, with nearly 70,000 confirmed cases reported per day on average, a significant undercount due to at-home testing.

More than a million people have died in the US from Covid since the start of the pandemic, more than any other country in the world.

“I think people have become hardened about it,” Frieden said of the Covid toll. “Covid is a new bad thing in our environment and it’s likely to stay here for the long term. We don’t know how this is going to evolve, whether it’s going to get less virulent, more virulent – it has years that get better and worse.”

The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is stepping down this month, said the US could consider the pandemic over when Covid hospitalizations and deaths drop to a flu-like level.

For the first time, the two viruses are circulating simultaneously at high levels. From October through the first week of December, the flu killed 12,000 people, while Covid claimed over 27,000 lives during that period.

“We’re still in the middle of this — it’s not over,” Fauci told the “Conversations on Health Care” radio show in November. “Four hundred deaths a day is not an acceptable level. We want it to be much lower than that.”

Frieden said that 95% of people dying from Covid are not up to date on their vaccines and 75% of people who would benefit from the antiviral Paxlovid are not receiving it.

“We should celebrate these great tools that we have, but we’re not doing a good job of putting them in people and that would not only save lives but also reduce the disruption from Covid,” he said.

Ashish Jha, coordinator of the White House Covid task force, said people who are up to date on their vaccines and treated when they have an advanced infection are at almost no risk of dying from Covid at this point in the pandemic. Jha especially urged older Americans, who are more vulnerable to serious illness, to get boosters so they have more protection during the holidays.

“There are still a lot of older Americans who haven’t upgraded their immunity and haven’t protected themselves,” Jha told reporters at the White House last week.

Michael Osterholm, a leading epidemiologist, said new Covid variants will pose the biggest threat to the progress the US has made in 2023.

China eased its strict Covid-19 policy, which sought to contain outbreaks of the virus, in response to widespread social unrest during the autumn. Infections are now rising in the country, raising concerns that Covid now has even more room to mutate.

The virus has continued to mutate into increasingly transmissible omicron versions over the past year, at the same time that immunity from previous vaccination or infection has waned.

“We want to believe that after three years of activity, all the immunity that we should have acquired through vaccination or previous infection should protect us,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “But with declining immunity and variants – we can’t say that.”