Despite the reduced data reporting from the US federal government since the end of the public health emergency this May, numerous mainstream media sources are now reporting increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations, highlighting a summer wave. Who could have predicted that COVID is not a fall/winter seasonal disease? 🤔 (Hint: The pandemic isn’t over, and COVID is spreading in every season under a “vaxxed and relaxed” public health approach.)
While we are glad for the recognition that COVID isn’t over, watch out for inaccurate or incomplete reporting, such as:
- Misleading claims of recently being “near historic lows” or “far lower than in the last three summers.” In the face of drastically diminished testing access, many COVID cases are unreported, making case counts an undercount relative to previous years. The lowest recent wastewater levels this spring and summer have been about 4 times higher nationally than they were at a previous low point in May 2021.
- Lukewarm support for precautionary approaches, such as experts who claim it is not yet time to mask. The time to mask and take other multilayered precautions is now!
- Misleading claims about immunity from previous infections and neglecting to mention the risks of Long COVID and organ damage from COVID at all. The risks of Long COVID and organ damage increase with repeated infections–people who have been previously infected have all the more reason to take precautions.
- Emphasis on individual protections for members of specific risk groups rather than societal action. We cannot effectively protect vulnerable populations without taking multilayered precautions to reduce transmission in our communities and society as a whole. By the way, all of us are vulnerable to the harmful impacts of COVID including Long COVID and an increased risk of heart attacks, including people who are young, (temporarily) abled, and healthy.
Along with the noted increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations, wastewater levels are now increasing in all regions. National wastewater levels have increased about 2-fold since June 21, 2023 (165 copies/mL to 326 copies/mL on July 26, 2023). Notably, the data we reported last week that showed a slight recent decrease in the West and Midwest have been updated on Biobot, which now shows a fairly steady rise across all regions since mid-June.
Highlighting the broad public support for masking, a Boston.com poll showed that 87% of more than 2,300 readers agreed with businesses that require masks. Narratives that mask requirements are unpopular are wrong and are based on a psychological phenomenon called collective illusion or pluralistic ignorance. These poll results are clear and consistent with earlier polls–most people find masking to be a sensible, non-controversial response to an ongoing airborne pandemic. Masking requirements establish a norm of community care and make all of us safer.
High-filtration, well-fitting masks were spotted on the SAG-AFTRA picket lines in the reel shared by Mask Together America. This summer, both COVID and excessive heat are dangers to protests. If you are heading out to the picket lines, check out our tips for COVID safety as well as the CDC’s tips for preventing heat-related illness.
Although the recent media attention on COVID may fade, COVID remains a clear and present danger in our daily lives. If effective action isn’t taken to reduce transmission, continued summer travel, summer gatherings, and the start of school in the fall will likely fuel ongoing transmission. Consider sharing our safer gatherings toolkit with loved ones.
The White House knows that COVID isn’t over. COVID testing is still required for everyone who meets with the president. Shouldn’t free testing be available for all of us? Use our letter campaigns to ask your elected officials for free PCR testing and Rapid Antigen Testing. Also consider writing your elected officials to let them know we need other ongoing COVID resources, including masks, air filters for clean indoor air, and vaccines.
Finally, join Long COVID Justice in writing your representatives to support the TREAT Long COVID Act, which supports evidence-based Long COVID treatments by funding patient-centered research, access to care, and training for medical professionals.
Thank you for reading. We are grateful for all that you do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. 😷
Notes: 1) The numbers in this report were current as of 7/29/2023. 2) Changes in testing access as well as data reporting have led many federal data sources to become less reliable. Fewer federal data sources may be included in current and upcoming Weather Reports, and we will do our best to provide context regarding the representativeness of limited data. 3) Check out the links throughout & see our website for more! https://peoplescdc.org