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Coronavirus update: Health experts worry about undetected spread

Cases have jumped sharply higher in New York City

COVID-19 in city concept
Photo (c) borchee - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,399,474 (80,269,527)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 985,482 (984,573)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 498,154,313 (496,455,668)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,176,420 (6,167,708)‌

Health experts worry about undetected spread

As cases of the coronavirus began to decline in February, most states relaxed their COVID-19 mitigation measures. Along with expiring mask mandates, many states reduced testing.

That worries some health experts who say a surge in U.S. cases, similar to what many other countries are now experiencing, could be hard to detect. They argue that testing and viral sequencing are critical to a quick response to an outbreak of the virus.

“There’s always more spread than we can detect,” Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University, told Bloomberg.  “That’s true even more so now than earlier in the pandemic.” 

Cases are up sharply in New York City

New York City is experiencing a sharp increase in new cases of COVID-19, and one of the latest to be infected is Mayor Eric Adams. Over the weekend, Adams tweeted that he had tested positive but is experiencing minimal symptoms.

In the last 14 days, New York City’s average daily case count has risen by 49%, to 1,688. Statewide, new cases are up 61%.

Officials say most of the new infections are being caused by the fast-spreading BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant. Even though the subvariant appears to be milder, hospitalizations have risen in New York by 2%.

Researchers still working on COVID-19 tests

Operating under the assumption that the world will have to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, academic researchers continue to develop new tests to detect the virus. Many of the new efforts focus on increasing the speed of test results. A University of Georgia nanotechnology research group is using optical sensors to detect the virus quickly and accurately.

“Right now, we already have rapid antigen test kits available on the market, though the big issue continues to be the high rate of false positives, around 60%,” said Yanjun Yang, a doctoral student at the UGA College of Engineering and lead author on the new paper.

Researchers at the University of Florida have helped develop a COVID-19 testing device that can detect coronavirus infections in as little as 30 seconds. They say the test is as sensitive and accurate as a PCR test, which is the gold standard of testing. 

Around the nation

  • Pennsylvania:  Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg is being recognized by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania for the creative way it approached the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital is being honored for quickly setting up an alternative testing site to meet the needs of the community by using a drive-through method. The hospital's work made it possible to separate people who only needed tests from those who required emergency treatment.

  • Florida: Cases of COVID-19 have increased for the first time in nine weeks along Florida’s central Atlantic coast. The Florida Department of Health on Friday reported 312 cases in Brevard County, or 51 cases per 100,000 population compared to 26.3 cases per 100,000 population from the last period. 

  • Maine: The state government will distribute more than 1 million free COVID-19 tests to schools for use by students and staff. The at-home tests are being purchased with federal funds and distributed to any Maine schools that choose to participate.

  • Colorado: The Colorado Department of Public Health has suspended Centennial-based Health Now Medical from the COVID-19 vaccination program. The agency said it has determined that a small number of patients received vaccine doses that may not be effective. It said the facility wasn’t properly storing the vaccine.

  • Hawaii: With COVID-19 cases declining, Hawaii's transportation officials have allowed the resumption of inter-island cruises for the first time in two years. However, The Pride of America Cruise ship will operate at only 50% capacity.

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