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Coronavirus update: COVID-19 may be at a crossroads

The CDC warns that coronavirus risks are increasing in some U.S. counties

American flag and COVID-19 concept
Photo (c) 4x image - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 92,562,436 (91,993,384)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,035,549 (1,035,005)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 587,651,288 (586,897,066)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,428,190 (6,422,057)‌

COVID-19 cases at an inflection points, experts say

After an early 2022 surge, the U.S. appears to be at a plateau when it comes to COVID-19 cases, according to some medical experts. After the sharp increase, hospitalizations and deaths have leveled off in recent weeks.

While the U.S. has admitted 40,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals, and 400 people are dying each day. But the numbers suggest that’s a much better result than during the winter months when serious cases and deaths were much higher. Looking ahead, few scientists know what to expect.

"We've never really cracked that: why these surges go up and down, how long it stays up and how fast it comes down," Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research,” told CNN. "All these things are still somewhat of a mystery."

CDC says COVID-19 risks are increasing in some areas

While conditions are improving in some areas, other U.S. counties are moving in the wrong direction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In its latest report, the agency said the number of U.S. counties in the high-risk of transmission category jumped 71% in just the last week.

The CDC’s high-risk map shows that 1,143 counties now meet the threshold for that top threat designation. That’s more than triple the number from last month, a move that CDC officials call a clear reversal.

Only about 25% of counties are now considered to be at low risk for COVID-19 spread. In the June 17 update, 60% were in the low-risk category.

AMA gives an outlook for the fall

Despite current worrisome COVID-19 trends, the American Medical Association (AMA) has a more positive outlook for the fall. The good news, the AMA says, is that most of the country has been exposed to the virus either through infection or vaccination, leading to a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths.

While there has been discussion of an updated COVID-19 vaccine that might be ready for boosters by October, some health experts aren’t sure whether it’s wise to change the vaccine to target the emerging subvariants.

“By the time it's ready in the fall, BA.5 may be past us and we may be on to something entirely new,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a virology expert and AMA member.

Around the nation

  • California: School is starting in many school districts across the state, and health officials are expressing relief that it’s coinciding with a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases. The California Department of Public Health this week reported that the statewide COVID-19 case rate is at 33.7 per 100,000 residents, a 19% decline in the past week.

  • Texas: Jazmin Kirkland, a North Texas mother of three, left the hospital this week after being treated for a severe case of COVID-19. Kirkland was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 3, 2021. A few days later, she was placed on a ventilator because the virus had attacked her heart and lungs.

  • Virginia: School classrooms are open all across the state, but many students apparently prefer virtual instruction. Virginia Virtual Academy Executive Director Suzanne Sloane said the school’s full-time enrollment is currently nearing 5,000 students, which is higher than before the pandemic.

  • Ohio: Officials at Ohio State University say they plan to use the same COVID-19 protocols that were in place during the summer sessions for the fall term. Students, faculty, and staff will be required to show proof of vaccination, and masking will be optional.

  • Georgia: Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, has tested positive for COVID-19. Abrams' campaign spokesperson Alex Floyd said the candidate tested positive Wednesday morning after giving a public speech on the economy Tuesday night in Atlanta.

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