Covid Surge Expands, However Gauging Dangers Is Tough

The very highly transmissible omicron variant, BA.2.12.1, has exploded across many parts of the country. Reports look at increases in cases in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the San Francisco area. Meanwhile, Eric Clapton — a prominent opponent of vaccination mandates — has tested positive. Apple is delaying the return of employees to the office.

The Washington Post: How Big Is The Latest US Covid Wave? No One Really Knows.

Eileen Wassermann struggles to calculate her daily risks at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic — with infections drastically undercounted and mask mandates gone. The immunocompromised 69-year-old ensconces herself in her SUV for the half-hour ferry ride across the Puget Sound from her home on Bainbridge Island to Seattle, where she undergoes treatment for the rare inflammatory condition sarcoidosis. … Experts say Americans can assume infections in their communities are five to ten times higher than official counts. (Nirappil, Shepherd and Keating, 5/17)

The New York Times: New York City Coronavirus Cases Reach ‘High’ Alert Level

New York City health officials put the city on “high Covid alert” on Tuesday, after rising case counts and hospitalizations reached a level that could put substantial pressure on the health care system. The announcement was triggered by a color-coded alert system that the city introduced in March. But so far, the system has had little impact on the city’s disease control strategy or the public’s perception. (Goldstein, 5/18) NJ ‘Looking At’ How To Respond To New COVID Surge, Murphy Says

With New Jersey in the midst of another surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday officials are discussing how to respond — though he did not say whether new statewide mask or social distancing restrictions are in the store. … The governor also said state models show the surge is expected to peak within the next week or two, adding the variant driving it is “a lot less lethal” for those who are vaccinated. “God willing, this wave will peak sooner than later,” he said. (Johnson, 5/17)

The Boston Globe: The New, Highly Transmissible Omicron Variant, BA.2.12.1, Is Dominating In Massachusetts. Now what?

It didn’t seem that long ago that infectious disease experts spoke hopefully of a spring reprieve in COVID-19 cases. But that was before the latest, even more, transmissible Omicron variant, BA.2.12.1, exploded across Massachusetts in recent weeks and began to shove aside its predecessor, BA.2, in other regions, as well. Cases are climbing, edging the United States across the threshold of 1 million deaths. Hospitalizations are rising too, albeit more slowly. The levels of coronavirus detected in Eastern Massachusetts waste water — a bellwether for future infections — also continues a march upward. The virus seems relentless, as fully vaccinated and boosted people who managed to escape it are reporting infections. (Lazar, 5/17)

San Francisco Chronicle: Bay Area COVID Cases Keep Swelling As Pandemic Persists

There’s no relief for Bay Area counties on the COVID-19 front, as the latest numbers from the state show new cases and hospitalizations driven by subvariants of the coronavirus continuing their steady climb. The Bay Area reported about 42 new daily cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday, up from 35 a week ago. Eight of the nine counties in the region are among those that have the highest infection rate in California, with San Francisco reporting 54 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Health officials say the actual number of infections is probably much higher because of people testing at home or not getting tested at all. (Vaziri, 5/17)

AP: New Orleans: Now Is The Time To Head Off Summer COVID Surge

Now is the time to head off a COVID-19 surge like the one that swamped area hospitals last summer, the head of the New Orleans Health Department said Tuesday. Case counts average 155 a day, five times higher than a month ago, and wastewater tests show increased coronavirus concentrations in both residential and tourist areas, Dr. Jennifer Avegno said. She noted that many people use home tests, so the case count “is a big underrepresentation.” (McConnaughey, 5/17)

Palm Beach Post: Deborah Birx In West Palm Beach Warns Of Big Summer COVID Surge In Florida

Florida should expect an “exponential” COVID surge this summer, former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Monday during a visit downtown. Birx spoke to an audience of more than 200 people at the Kravis Center for a lunch hosted by Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, where she touted her recently released book, “Silent Invasion.” Few attendees wore masks. (Persaud, 5/17)

Also —

The Hill: Virulently Anti-Vax Eric Clapton Tests Positive For COVID

Eric Clapton — one of the most prominent opponents of vaccination mandates — says he’s postponing performances after testing positive for COVID-19. The “Layla” singer announced in a Monday post on his official Facebook page that his shows planned in Zurich and Milan this week would be delayed following his diagnosis. … The 77-year-old English musician said last year that he would refuse to play at any venues requiring vaccinations, saying, “I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present.” (Kurtz, 5/17)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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