"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Complacency has replaced concern within the recent COVID surge

January 12, 2024 – Sneezing, coughing, runny nose – it looks like everyone you realize is sick with some variety of respiratory virus straight away. Currently the United States gets hammered with such illnesses, with doctor visits for respiratory viruses increasing in recent weeks. Data The CDC's wastewater surveillance system indicates that we're within the second largest COVID wave of the pandemic, with the JN1 variant currently accounting for roughly 62% of circulating strains of the COVID-19 virus.

So why doesn't anyone appear to care?

The pandemic remains to be with us

In the last week of December, nearly 35,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID. That's a 20% increase in hospitalizations within the last week. CDC data shows. At the identical time, nearly 4% of all U.S. deaths were related to COVID, with the mortality rate increasing by 12.5% ​​within the last week.

This current surge within the JN1 variant has the very best hospitalization numbers in almost a yr. As of January 7, 2023, there have been greater than 44,000 hospitalizations. One can only guess when this upward trend in hospitalizations and deaths will ebb or decline, but for now the trend is barely increasing.

About 12% of people that report their COVID results test positive, although the number is probably going higher given the recognition of at-home testing.

Why no alarm bells?

If the numbers had risen like this a yr or two ago, it will be front-page news. But unlike the early years of the COVID experience, shared global anxiety and uncertainty have largely been replaced by complacency and “pandemic fatigue.”

Many of us would love to simply move on.

For people in higher-risk groups — like older Americans and other people with medical conditions — that's not a viable option. And for many who live with someone in danger: we proceed to wear a mask, keep our distance and wash our hands ceaselessly.

With complacency about it COVID Because the pandemic is so common and the pandemic emergency is officially over, the great response to the pandemic can also be waning. This means fewer infectious disease experts, scientific researchers and government resources focused directly on COVID. Where does this leave us now?

“The risk is not that high, but it still exists,” said Adjoa Smalls-Mantey, MD, DPhil, a New York City-based psychiatrist.

One reason for complacency about COVID is that “the risk of imminent death has disappeared compared to when we didn't know much about COVID or didn't have a vaccine yet,” Smalls-Mantey said. “People are also more complacent because we don't see reminders of the pandemic everywhere and movement is restricted in restaurants, museums and other meeting places.” The same goes for strong reminders like lockdowns and quarantines.

Rather a lot has modified with COVID. “We are no longer seeing as many deaths or hospitalizations related to the virus as we once did, and health systems are not overwhelmed with patients,” said Daniel Salmon, PhD, MPH, a vaccinologist within the Department of International Health and Department of Health, Behavior and Society on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“But COVID is still out there,” he said.

Another factor contributing to the complacency is that the general public in the unique series have now had COVID or have at the very least been vaccinated. That could also be reassuring to some, “but the truth is that protection from COVID and protection from the vaccine wanes over time,” he continued.

Masking is now more normalized

Because of our experience with COVID, more persons are aware of how respiratory viruses spread and are willing to take precautions, experts say. COVID has normalized wearing a mask in public. So evidently increasingly persons are taking precautions against other viral threats akin to colds, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“I do think people are more careful – they wash their hands more often and more thoroughly [are] more conscious of being in crowded spaces. So overall there is increased awareness of virus transmission,” Smalls-Mantey said.

Individual risk tolerance also drives using protective measures.

“In my experience, people who are more worried about things are also more afraid of COVID,” Smalls-Mantey said. As a result, they usually tend to moderate their behavior, avoid crowds and maintain social distancing. In contrast, there's the “I'm fine” group – individuals who perceive their COVID risk as lower and think they don't have the identical risk aspects or have to take the identical precautions.

A mixture of optimism and pessimism?

“It's a half-empty, half-full situation” we discover ourselves in as we approach the fourth anniversary of the COVID pandemic, said Kawsar Rasmy Talaat, MD, an infectious disease and international health specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

Our newfound agility, or ability to reply quickly, includes each latest vaccine technology and the FDA's response to the emergence of latest COVID variants.

On the opposite hand, together we're higher at responding to a crisis than preparing for a future one, she said. “We’re not very good at planning for the next COVID variant or the next pandemic.”

And COVID doesn't spread by itself. The flu is “going crazy right now,” Talaat said, “so it's really important to get vaccinated as best you can.” Americans can protect themselves from the JN1 COVID variant, protect themselves from the flu and, as they grow old are over 60 years old and/or produce other medical conditions, receive a vaccine to forestall RSV.

The future is uncertain

“Our track record in responding to COVID is pretty good,” said Antoine Flahault, MD, PhD, director of the Institute of Global Health on the University of Geneva in Switzerland. “About 2,000 different new variants of SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID] have already appeared in the world, and the game is not over yet.”

As for a future threat, “we don't know whether one of the emerging variants will be much more dangerous, evade immunity and existing vaccines and cause a new pandemic,” said Flahault, lead writer of a Comment from June 2023“No time for complacency on COVID-19 in Europe,” within the journal lancet.

Flahault described the general public health response to the pandemic as largely effective. “However, we can probably do better, at least we could try to do better against SARS-CoV-2 and all the respiratory viruses that pose a huge burden in our societies.” He said improved indoor air quality could make a giant difference.

“We have learned from the pandemic that respiratory viruses are transmitted almost exclusively through aerosolized fine particles when we breathe, speak, sing, cough or sneeze in poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces,” Flahaut said. If we wish to be higher prepared, it's time to act. “It’s time to protect people from contracting respiratory diseases, and that means massively improving indoor air quality.”

Talaat stays somewhat pessimistic concerning the future and believes that this shouldn't be the case If We can have one other health emergency like COVID, but When. “We should be higher prepared for the following pandemic. It's only a matter of time.”