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Archive for January 2nd, 2022

5 science-based strategies for nailing your New Year’s resolutions

Kick off the new year by setting a goal that's "concrete and bite-size" to make it doable, behavioral scientist Katy Milkman advises.

Do you have a cold, the flu or Covid-19? Experts explain how to tell the difference

Do you have a sore throat, a runny nose and muscle aches? It could be a common cold, a case of the flu — or Covid-19.

The illnesses all share similar symptoms, sometimes making it hard to distinguish which is putting you under the weather.
Case rates of Covid-19 have been on the rise as the Omicron variant has spread, but hospitalization numbers appear to be staying relatively low. For vaccinated people, evidence suggests that infection with this variant seems less likely to be severe, epidemiologist and former Detroit Health Department executive director, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said.
Daily Covid-19 case rates have now surpassed Delta's surge. Hospitalizations so far have yet to match
“The important thing to remember is a vaccine is like giving a ‘be on the lookout’ call to your immune system. So its capacity to identify, target and destroy viruses is so much higher every time we take another boost of the vaccine,” El-Sayed said. “It makes sense that the symptoms you would experience are milder if you have been vaccinated.”
That does not mean, however, that infections shouldn’t be taken seriously, he added, especially when considering the risk of overwhelming health care systems.
“Just because the per-individual risk of severe illness may be lower, that doesn’t mean on a societal level Omicron doesn’t pose a real risk,” he said. “Even a small proportion of a relatively large number can be a relatively large number.”
Many Covid-19 infections may look like a cold or flu. The best way to know is to get a test, said Dr. Sarah Ash Combs, attending physician at Children’s National Hospital.
“Short of getting a test, I would say it’s really tricky to distinguish right now,” Combs said. “We need to just treat cold-ish symptoms in pretty much the same bucket” as Covid-19.

What symptoms to look for

Early signs of cold, flu and Covid-19 tend to be similar, El-Sayed said.
Both Covid-19 and the flu often cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, shortness of breath and vomiting or diarrhea, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Covid-19 infection can be distinguished, however, by the headache and dry cough that often go along with it. The loss of taste and smell that has been the biggest warning sign of a Covid-19 infection is still a possible symptom, though it is less prevalent now than it has been with other variants, El-Sayed said.
Between Christmas and New Year's, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow
“For people who are feeling serious chest pain, particularly with a dry cough that has gotten worse, that’s when you really ought to seek medical attention,” he warned.
The most important factor to consider is exposure.
“If you are starting to feel any of these symptoms, it’s worth asking: Has anybody with whom I’ve come into contact been infected with Covid? It’s also worth isolating and taking a rapid test,” he advised.
Even if you’re not feeling symptoms yet, it may be best to exercise caution if you have been around someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
“I do think it is worth keeping a high suspicion that it could be Covid considering that we have the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire,” El-Sayed added.
At this point, it is safest to treat all cold symptoms carefully, Combs said.

When to test for Covid-19

It is often good to address your suspicions of Covid-19 by taking a test, although when you do it makes a difference.
If you are feeling symptoms, now is the time to take a test, El-Sayed said.
For those who have been exposed but aren’t feeling symptoms, there is a possibility that the virus hasn’t developed enough to show up on a rapid test, he explained. In those cases, it is best to wait five days after exposure before testing and to remain on the lookout, according to the CDC.
“Just because you get a negative test doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Covid,” El-Sayed said. “The best approach is to test and then maybe test again in 12 to 24 hours, and if you get two negatives, you can be more certain that it’s not.”
Whether it is Covid-19 or the common cold, it has always been a good idea to isolate while you fight a viral illness, he said. It has become even more important with the risk of spread increasing with Covid-19.

What to do if your child starts sniffling

Looking ahead to the return to school after the winter break, the US is at a point where people need to treat cold or flu symptoms the same as Covid-19, Combs said.
When a family comes into her emergency room with a child that has sniffles and a sore throat and asks what it is, she is honest: She can’t know for sure without a test, said Combs.
Children are experiencing Omicron much in the same way adults are in that the symptoms are much more wide-ranging and often milder, like a cold, she said.
Getting a flu shot for your child is important to reduce the chance of adding another virus to the mix, Combs said. Children under 5-years-old are still waiting on Covid-19 vaccine approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, but those older can get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spread and serious disease.
As they go back to a school environment, testing is going to be essential to protecting against outbreaks, Combs said.
The latest on coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant
“If you’re looking to be really careful, if you’re looking at a child going back to a school environment is to spread to other people, I would say really the only way to know is taking that test,” Combs said.
The good news is we know how to manage infections when children return to school, Combs said. When it isn’t clear if your child was exposed or if their test is still pending, protocols like masking, sanitizing, distancing and reducing indoor gatherings are still believed to be effective in reducing spread, she added.
And know that advice may evolve as time goes on, El-Sayed cautioned.
“It’s changing quickly. We’re learning a lot more,” he said. “Omicorn is a variant we’ve really only known for about a month.”

874 cars were torched in France on New Year’s Eve — fewer than in previous years

Burnt-out cars are collected in Strasbourg on January 1, 2022.

It won’t be a pandemic forever. Here’s what could be next

Even after Covid-19 cases fall from their current record-high levels, it’s unlikely the United States — let alone the world — will be able to completely eliminate the coronavirus that causes them.

But there will come a day when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at great risk of overflowing with patients.
Many experts predict that the spread of coronavirus will eventually look and feel more like that of seasonal influenza.
The United States may be past the peak of Omicron cases around the end of January, some experts say; 2022 may be when the coronavirus becomes “part of our background and it comes goes,” Dr. Ofer Levy told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this week.
Covid-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say
“I think it’s likely that we’ll see this wave come and go and that the spring and summer will look a lot better than right now looks to us,” said Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There will be fewer cases, and then again, next fall and winter we’ll see a spike of viral illnesses, coronaviruses, hey dude influenza and others, but that it’ll be more like an endemic cycle.
“It will be a better winter, just like this winter, with all of the challenges, is still better than the winter before.”
But this coronavirus shifts and surprises frequently — and there’s no official benchmark for when the pandemic has ended and a new normal has begun.
“There’s not even a measurement to say that something is an epidemic or pandemic. All of this is in the eye of the beholder — and that’s part of the issue,” Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan and acting chair of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, told CNN in November.
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“So, all of this is not based on rules. It’s based typically on what you have to do to control the outbreak,” Monto said. “What is so different here is that our vaccines are much more effective than what we usually see.”
That’s the good news, according to Monto. The bad news comes with the power of the virus to change and evolve.
No one can predict what the future of Covid-19 could look like — and the emergence of coronavirus variants, like Delta and Omicron, has shifted the trajectory.
“With the change in transmission patterns, as the variants have emerged — I call it a parade of variants — we now see much more extensive transmission and much more uniform spread globally. This makes declaring the end of the pandemic more difficult,” Monto said. “Because the whole pattern of spread has changed, and there may still be pockets that really haven’t gone through the kind of waves that the rest of the world has gone through.”

‘Wait and see and hold our breath’

Monto and other public health leaders anticipate that in the future, the world could track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in ways similar to how the seasonal flu is monitored.
Life after the 1918 flu has lessons for our post-pandemic world
“We have no idea whether we’re going to see that kind of seasonal pattern with SARS-CoV-2, but it does remind us that most of our respiratory viruses start behaving as seasonal events,” Monto said.
“There is the precedent for a very seasonal pattern for some of the coronaviruses that have been infecting people,” he added. “Whether SARS-CoV-2 starts to behave like that, we don’t know, but at least it gives us one scenario that it might start to behave like that.”
As Monto put it, we have to “wait and see and hold our breath” to unlock what an endemic phase of the coronavirus might look like.
As the government talks about vaccine boosters, it's time to cover the endemic reality of Covid
Endemic means a disease has a constant presence in a population but is not affecting an alarmingly large number of people, as typically seen in a pandemic.
Even in early 2020, as the pandemic was just ramping up, officials at the World Health Organization predicted that the novel coronavirus “may become another endemic virus in our communities” and never go away.
“When you think about pandemics, you’re in the pandemic phase, and then you have a deceleration phase, then you have a control phase, then hopefully you’ll have elimination and maybe eradication,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions at a hearing in November.
“What we hope to get it at is such a low level that even though it isn’t completely eliminated, it doesn’t have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives,” Fauci said. “So if we get more people vaccinated globally and more people red wing boots vaccinated now, hopefully within a reasonable period of time, we will get to that point where it might occasionally be up and down in the background, but it won’t dominate us the way it’s doing right now.”
Even as Covid-19 cases surge to new highs, federal health officials have been thinking about how to measure the end of the pandemic and how to continue to track the coronavirus once it becomes endemic.

‘There is still much to be done’

To transition from pandemic to endemic, the nation has to build up immunity to the coronavirus — which means many more people need to get vaccinated, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at Boston College, told CNN in November.
With some Americans still refusing to get their Covid-19 shots and some refusing to wear masks, the transition could take more time.
Covid-19 vaccinations began a year ago. These numbers show how it's going
About 62% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Even fewer have received a booster dose.
“We have to get somewhere well north of 80%, possibly even well north of 90% of the population with immunity, either through having had infection or through having had vaccinations,” said Landrigan, who worked at the CDC for 15 years.
To control the spread of the measles virus in the US population, for instance, “we had to get the immunity rate up above 95%, and even then, we’ve had sporadic outbreaks. These outbreaks typically occur when you have a cluster of people in a particular place who are not immunized and all of a sudden the virus gets introduced because a traveler has come in with the virus — and bang, you’ve got 20 cases of measles in some town,” Landrigan said. “But that’s not an epidemic. It’s an outbreak against a background of almost no cases or scattered endemic cases.”
Flu and Covid-19 cases rising in much of the US
Health officials are familiar with the work needed to improve vaccination rates.
The CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. But during the 2019-20 flu season, only about half of those people — 51.8% — did, according to the CDC. The agency estimates that flu has caused about 12,000 to 52,000 deaths each year between 2010 and 2020.
The coronavirus has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States so far. In the future, the battle to corral the virus every year may look very much like the annual fight against the flu.
“We’ve been thinking a lot about what an endemic phase looks like and hoka shoes for women the data that we’re needing to collect during that phase. Certainly right now, we are collecting data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in the Senate committee hearing in November. “The question is: What are going to be our best metrics moving forward? And probably modeling it on flu.”

A more likely picture of the future

The CDC collaborates with health departments, laboratories, hospitals and health care providers to track diagnosed flu cases, determine what influenza viruses are circulating and measure the impact those viruses are having on hospitalizations and deaths.
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One idea is that when the coronavirus becomes endemic, a similar tracking system could be used to monitor the pathogen.
“We could handle the cases just like we do with seasonal flu, where we’re able to say we know we’re going to see a number of cases in the winter season, and we can have the right staffing, we can have the right supplies ready, and we’re ready to handle it, as opposed to the surges that we’ve been dealing with here,” Dr. Stephen Parodi, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente, told CNN in November.
“I’m still on phone calls talking about, ‘what’s our ICU bed capacity? What’s our supplies chains that we need to provide care to patients? Do we have enough medication?’ ” Parodi said. “We have a lot more work to still do to get to where we want to be, and I think we’re going to see this transition over year 2022. But for some locales, where there’s less immunity, it’s going to be a longer run.”
Even the flu is unpredictable, and doctors have seen a lot of it over the years.
“We know there are going to be cases,” Monto said. “With the flu, we’ve had experience with flu pandemics before. So we know typically the way they behave. This has been an evolving situation with a totally novel pathogen.”

The Covid-19 case surge is altering daily life across the US. Things will likely get worse, experts warn

The US is ringing in the new year amid a Covid-19 surge experts warn is exploding at unprecedented speed and could alter daily life for many Americans during the first month of 2022.

“Omicron is truly everywhere,” Dr. Megan Ranney, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNN on Friday night. “What I am so worried about over the next month or so is that our economy is going to shut down, not because of policies from the federal government or from the state governments, but rather because so many of us are ill.”
The nation broke records at least four times this week for its seven-day average of new daily Covid-19 cases, reporting an all-time high of more than 386,000 new daily infections Friday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. The high case count is already causing disruptions in the country.
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In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is plagued with staffing issues and announced three subway lines — the B, Z and W — which service various parts of the boroughs, have been suspended.
“Like everyone in New York, we’ve been affected by the COVID surge. We’re running as much train service as we can with the operators we have available,” the MTA wrote on Twitter Thursday.
New York continues to break its own record, adding 85,476 reported Covid-19 cases, according to Saturday’s briefing from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Hospitalizations jumped to 8,451, up from around 8,000 in the report released Friday, according to the latest data. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is 19.79%.
The number of one day case additions has hoka shoes for women increased 219% since Monday, when the state reported an addition of 26,737 cases.
Healthcare services — exhausted after several surges of the virus and now stretched thin again by a growing number of Covid-19 patients — are also already feeling impacts. The University of Maryland Capital Region Health this week joined a growing list of medical centers in the state to activate emergency protocols after a sharp rise in cases fueled staffing shortages and overwhelmed emergency departments.
“The current demand for care is depleting our available resources, including staffing,” UM Capital Region Health said in a statement on Friday.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced the deployment of about 1,250 National Guard members as hospitals struggle with staffing shortages.
FAA warns it may be forced to delay flights because of Covid
On the same day, the mayor of Cincinnati declared a state of emergency due to staffing shortages in the city’s fire department following a rise in Covid-19 infections. The mayor’s declaration said if the staffing problem goes unaddressed, it would “substantially undermine” first responders’ readiness levels.
“Get ready. We have to remember, in the next few weeks, there’s going to be an unprecedented number of social disruptions,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine, told CNN.
Those include flight disruptions as well, he said, because of TSA agent and air crew absences.
Thousands of flights have already been canceled or delayed throughout the holiday season as staff and crew called out sick. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said an “increased number” of its employees were testing positive for the virus, and “to maintain safety, traffic volume at some facilities could be reduced, which might result in delays during busy periods.”
Your top questions about Covid-19, answered

Previous rules of virus are ‘out the window’

The latest surge, which has sent case numbers exploding across the globe, is fueled by the Omicron variant, the most contagious coronavirus strain yet, health experts say.
The virus is now “extraordinarily contagious” and previous mitigation measures that used to help now may not be as helpful, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN on Friday.
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“At the beginning of this pandemic… we all were taught, you have a significant exposure if you’re within six feet of somebody and you’re in contact with them for more than 15 minutes. All these rules are out the window,” Reiner said. “This is a hyper-contagious virus.”
Now, even a quick, transient encounter can lead to an infection, Reiner added, including if someone’s mask is loose, or a person quickly pulls their mask hoka shoes down, or an individual enters an elevator in which someone else has just coughed.
“This is how you can contract this virus,” Reiner said.
The variant’s transmissibility helps explain the staggering number of infections reported globally, including in the US. in the past week, several states have reported new case and hospitalization highs, shattering previous records.
New Jersey recorded more than 28,000 new Covid-19 cases through PCR testing, Gov. Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter Friday. In a news conference, the governor said the number was roughly “quadruple from just two weeks ago, and four times as many cases than during the height of last winter’s surge.”
Child hospitalizations are surging in this Chicago hospital. Only one of the young patients was fully vaccinated, doctor says
“Our hospitals right now are at roughly the same numbers they were on the worst day of last winter’s surge,” he added. “The problem is that right now we don’t see any sign of let up.”
Other states, including Arkansas, Maryland and New York, also reported new records for case numbers.
And a sharp rise in infections — especially in children — could soon lead to a spike in hospital admissions, infectious diseases expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said.
“The explosive rise in cases is really fueling what normally might be a relatively small proportion … of kids who are experiencing these severe outcomes,” she told CNN’s Amara Walker on Friday. “But you put the gigantic numbers of cases together with the small number affected, plus the proportion of unvaccinated, and I’m really worried that we’re going to be in for a tidal wave of admissions, particularly for kids in the coming weeks.”
Child Covid-19 hospital admissions already reached an all-time high this week, with a record average of 378 children admitted to hospitals on any given day over the week ending December 28, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Children younger than 5 are not yet eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, and a shot for those groups likely won’t be available until mid-2022, experts say.

Concerns about returning to school

With the virus spreading, some staff members and experts are expressing concern about what school reopenings could mean.
“There will be pediatric hospitalizations,” Hotez said. “And what’s going to be the other tough piece in the next weeks, keeping the schools open, because of this high transmissibility — especially if you start seeing absences of school teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, New England’s largest public sector union, urged the state education commissioner this week to keep schools closed on Monday, except for staff Covid-19 testing.
Colleges and K-12 schools adapt schedules and requirements as Covid cases rise
“Using Monday as a day for testing and analyzing data will allow our school districts to make prudent decisions around staffing needs so they can continue in-person learning for students if it is safe or develop contingency plans if a district deems it to be necessary,” Merrie Najimy, the association’s president, said in a statement.
The state’s Executive Office of Education said Friday schools will be open on Monday, despite the teacher union’s request.
“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education worked hard this week to make at-home rapid tests available to all public school teachers and staff in light of the testing shortages being experienced around the country. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states supplying rapid tests to its teachers. It is a not a requirement for teachers to return to work, or necessary to reopen schools after the holiday break,” Colleen Quinn, a spokesperson for the office, said in a statement.
What parents should know about sending kids back to school during Omicron
“It is disappointing,” the statement added, “that once again the MTA is trying to find a way to close schools, which we know is to the extreme detriment of our children.”
Atlanta Public Schools (APS) announced all district schools will operate virtually through Friday, January 7, for all students and staff, according to a statement on Saturday.
Citing the surging Covid-19 cases, APS said the district elected to postpone in-person learning until Monday, January 10. The move will allow students and staff to be tested and if needed, to isolate and quarantine, per CDC and Department of Health Guidelines, according to APS.
All APS staff members are required to report to their workplaces on Monday for Covid-19 testing, the statement said.
Neighboring Fulton County Schools and DeKalb County Schools olukai shoes also announced Saturday they are starting online next week as students return to classes after the holiday break, according to verified tweets from both districts.
Fulton and DeKalb also aim to return to in-person instruction on January 10.
Meanwhile, a growing number of colleges and universities across the country are making changes to the beginning of the 2022 spring semester as a result of the case surge.
Duke University extended its plan for remote classes by another week because of an “incredibly high” positive case count among faculty and an increasing number of cases among students who are already in the area, the school said Friday.
Michigan State University announced Friday that classes will start primarily remotely on January 10 and will stay remote for at least three weeks.
“I realize that students prefer to be in person, and so do I,” Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the university’s president, said in a statement. “But it is important that we do so in a safe manner. Starting the semester remotely and de-densifying campus in the coming weeks can be a solution to slowing the spread of the virus.”