Coronavirus update: Omicron variants reportedly bolster immunity

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Overworked health care workers are finding little financial reward

COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 78,940,748 (78,933,931)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 948,438 (948,035)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 435,623,857 (434,675,681)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,950,866 (5,946,539)‌

Omicron infection protects against subvariant, study finds

A new study shows that people who have been infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are protected, at least temporarily, from infection by its subvariant, known as BA.2. The analysis projects that the protection level is as high as 95%.

The reverse also appears to be true. The research team analyzed data from around 100,000 people who had been infected with the BA.2 subvariant and determined that it provided around 85% protection against the Omicron variant (BQA.1) 35 to 40 days later.

The Omicron variant, which began showing up in the U.S. in November, has been primarily responsible for the most recent wave of the coronavirus. But now scientists believe the subvariant, BA.2, is rising to dominance.

Health care workers see few pay raises

Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers have been on the front lines of managing the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years. But a joint study has found that, despite their hard work, they haven’t seen much in the way of pay raises.

The analysis -- from Indiana University, the nonprofit Rand Corp., and the University of Michigan -- monitored workforce changes during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that the average wages for U.S. health care workers rose less than wages in other industries during 2020 and the first six months of 2021. 

"While there has been extensive media coverage of the considerable employment declines in the health care sector, evidence from complete national employment and wages was scarce," said Kosali Simon, one of the study's co-authors. "These findings provide a data-driven picture of employment levels by various health care settings and can help guide decision-making not only around the current health care shortage but also during a future crisis."

Cases are falling but remain high in children

A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association shows that children continue to be infected with COVID-19 at a fairly high rate as cases generally decline across the U.S. Reported COVID-19 cases among children spiked dramatically in 2022 during the Omicron variant surge, with over 4.6 million child cases being reported since the beginning of January. 

However, the researchers say pediatric cases are starting to trend lower. For the week ending February 17th, nearly 175,000 additional child COVID-19 cases were reported, down substantially from the peak level of 1,150,000 reported the week ending January 20th. 

The researchers reported that child cases this week remained “very high,” slightly less than the peak level of the Delta surge in 2021. Around 15% of all childhood cases during the pandemic have been diagnosed in just the last four weeks.

Around the nation

  • New York: Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sunday that the statewide mask mandate for public schools will end on Wednesday. Hochul, who has been under pressure from parents to take this action, cited the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Oregon:  Gov. Kate Brown has announced that she will lift her statewide COVID-19 emergency declaration on April 1. But she sounded a note of caution. “Lifting Oregon’s COVID-19 emergency declaration today does not mean that the pandemic is over, or that COVID-19 is no longer a significant concern,” Brown said.

  • Ohio: Case numbers have dropped dramatically across the state, but a top health official says it’s all relative. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff notes that the CDC considers 50 cases per 100,000 residents to be "substantial" community transmission. He points out that all 88 Ohio counties remain above that level.

  • Arkansas: Arkansas is one of the few states where COVID-19 cases are still rising, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson believes it’s time to begin returning to normal. “I think we’re to the point that everyone knows what to do and they know how to protect themselves,” Hutchinson said.

  • Alaska: Some pediatricians say misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is holding back parents from vaccinating their children. The state health department reports that vaccination rates for Alaska children lag far behind the rates for older kids and adults.

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