In omicron, the number of COVID cases may be losing importance

The explosive increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is worrying, but some experts believe that the focus should be on hospitalization for COVID-19. And those did not climb that fast.

For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on the ABC on Sunday that because many infections cause few or no symptoms, “it is more important to focus on hospitalization than the total number of cases.” Other experts believe that the number of cases is still valuable .

As the super contagious variant of omicron rages in the United States, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day has more than tripled in the past two weeks, reaching a record average of 480,000 cases. As the infected workers are quarantined, schools, hospitals and airlines are struggling.

at the same time, An average of 12,700 hospitalizations per day last week, An increase of 46% from the previous week, but far below the peak of 16,500 people a day a year ago, when the vast majority of people in the United States were not vaccinated. The death toll in the past two weeks has been stable at an average of about 1,200 per day, far below the historical high of 3,400 in January last year.

Public health experts suspect that these numbers together reflect the continued effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious diseases, even against omicron, and the possibility that the variant will not make most people as sick as the earlier version.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday that Omicron accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in the United States last week, again showing that the variant has spread at an alarming rate since it was first discovered in South Africa at the end of November.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of ICAP, Columbia University Global Health Center, said that the number of cases does not seem to be the most important number.

Instead, she said, at this stage of the pandemic, the United States should “divert our attention, especially in the age of vaccination, and really focus on preventing disease, disability, and death, and count these accordingly.”

The number of daily cases and their ups and downs has always been one of the most watched barometers during the outbreak, as well as a reliable early warning signal of serious illness and death in the previous wave of coronavirus.

But for a long time, they have been considered an imperfect measure, partly because they consist of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, rather than the actual number of infections, which is almost certain that the actual number of infections is many times higher. .

The number of daily cases also fluctuates sharply. The number of new cases recorded on Monday exceeded 1 million, and this number may reflect the backlog caused by delayed reporting during the holiday weekend. The 7-day rolling average is considered more reliable.

Now, the value of the number of daily cases is being questioned like never before.

On the one hand, the rapid growth at least partly reflects omicron’s stampede that many Americans are tested before holiday parties, as well as new testing requirements in workplaces, restaurants, theaters, and other venues.

In addition, the actual number of infections may be much higher than the number of cases, because the home test results that Americans are eager to use have not been added to official statistics, and because the long wait makes some people unwilling to wait in line to be wiped.

Moreover, in the spread of omicron, the number of cases does not seem to be very useful in describing a pandemic, which has led to a large number of infections, but so far, its impact does not seem to be that serious.

Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, said the number of cases has lost relevance.

“Hospitalization is where the rubber meets the road,” Neumer said. “This is a more objective measure”, although it is not perfect. He added: “If I had to choose an indicator, I would choose hospitalization data.”

Tracking COVID-19 admissions allows doctors to understand the severity of the virus and the hospital’s ability to respond to crises. In turn, this can help health leaders determine where to move equipment and other resources.

Despite this, health experts are still not prepared to cancel the number of cases.

“We shouldn’t give up focusing on the number of cases,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research and Translational Institute. “But it is important to admit that we only saw a portion of the actual number of cases.”

Ali Mokdad, a professor of health indicators science at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that for every new infection detected, the United States misses two cases. But he said that as omicron crosses the continent, it is still important to track the number of positive test results.

Mokdad said the number of cases can point to future hot spots and indicate whether the wave of infections has reached its peak.

He said that in addition, the number of cases is still important for people who are vulnerable due to age or health reasons, and they need to understand the spread of the virus in the community so that they can make a decision on preventive measures. Hospitals, schools, and companies need to plan for absences.

“It is blind to give up knowing whether cases are rising or falling. As a country, how can we not know the epidemic curve of infection?” Mokda said.

He said that if the test loses its relevance, it is because the United States has never developed a method to continuously and reliably monitor infections.

“It is unacceptable to cover up failure by changing the rules,” he said.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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