CORONAVIRUS

Officials say more areas of US may see mask recommendations

May 18, 2022, 11:31 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 11:00 am
(Adobe Stock)...
(Adobe Stock)
(Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON (AP) — COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States – and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking.

Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions.

Right now, the increases are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest. “(But) prior increases of infections, in different waves of infection, have demonstrated that this travels across the country,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said at a White House briefing with reporters.

For an increasing number of areas, “we urge local leaders to encourage use of prevention strategies like masks in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatment,” she said.

However, officials were cautious about making concrete predictions, saying how much worse the pandemic gets will depend on several factors, including to what degree previous infections will protect against new variants.

Last week, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha warned in an interview with The Associated Press the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.

Jha warned that without additional funding from Congress for the virus would cause “unnecessary loss of life” in the fall and winter, when the U.S. runs out of treatments.

He added the U.S. was already falling behind other nations in securing supplies of the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and said that the domestic manufacturing base of at-home tests is already drying up as demand drops off.

Jha said domestic test manufactures have started shuttering lines and laying off workers, and in the coming weeks will begin to sell off equipment and prepare to exit the business of producing tests entirely unless the U.S. government has money to purchase more tests, like the hundreds of millions it has sent out for free to requesting households this year.

That would leave the U.S. reliant on other countries for testing supplies, risking shortages during a surge, Jha warned. About 8.5 million households placed orders for the latest tranche of 8 free tests since ordering opened on Monday, Jha added.

The pandemic is now 2 1/2 years old. And the U.S. has seen — depending how you count them — five waves of COVID-19 during that time, with the later surges driven by mutated versions of the coronavirus. A fifth wave occurred mainly in December and January, caused by the omicron variant.

The omicron variant spread much more easily than earlier versions.

Some experts are worried the country now is seeing signs of a sixth wave, driven by an omicron subvariant. On Wednesday, Walensky noted a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the past five weeks, including a 26% increase nationally in the last week.

Hospitalizations also are rising, up 19% in the past week, though they remain much lower than during the omicron wave, she said.

In late February, as that wave was ebbing, the CDC released a new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 was easing its grip, with less of a focus on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals.

Walensky said more than 32% of the country currently live in an area with medium or high COVID-19 community levels, including more than 9% in the highest level, where CDC recommends that masks and other mitigation efforts be used.

In the last week, an additional 8% of Americans were living in a county in medium or high COVID-19 community levels.

Officials said they are concerned that waning immunity and relaxed mitigation measures across the country may contribute to a continued rise in infections and illnesses across the country. They encouraged people — particularly older adults — to get boosters.

Some health experts say the government should be taking clearer and bolder steps.

The CDC community level guidelines are confusing to the public, and don’t give a clear picture of how much virus transmission is occurring in a community, said Dr. Lakshmi Ganapathi, an infectious diseases specialist at Harvard University.

When the government officials make recommendations but do not set rules, “it ultimately rests on every single individual picking and choosing the public health that works for them. But that’s not what is effective. If you’re talking about stemming hospitalizations and even deaths, all of these interventions work better when people do it collectively,” she said.

___

Stobbe reported from New York.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

Representative Tricia Derges (Credit: Missouri House of Representatives)...
Associated Press

Missouri lawmaker resigns from House after fraud conviction for selling Covid treatments

A Missouri GOP legislator has resigned after being convicted of falsely claiming she was giving patients stem cell treatments for COVID-19.
18 hours ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Jacob King - WPA Pool/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

Moderna COVID-19 shots now an option for older kids in US

There is now a second COVID-19 option for kids ages 6 to 17 in the U.S.
10 days ago
Pfizer says it's COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in kids 12 to 15. (Justin Tallis-Pool/Getty Ima...
Jen Christensen, CNN

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects in young kids? Experts seek to ease parents’ concerns

Experts look at what side effects to expect from the COVID vaccine for children six months and older.
12 days ago
The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
13 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
13 days ago
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about Covid-19 vaccines for children, in the Roosevelt Room of the ...
ZEKE MILLER and JOSH BOAK, Associated Press

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

President Joe Biden is celebrating that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Officials say more areas of US may see mask recommendations