The coronavirus wants you to remember that it hasn’t gone away — and right now the virus is ensuring that Americans don’t relegate it entirely to the past.
Recent weeks have shown the signs of a slow-building COVID-19 mini-wave driven by new Omicron subvariants. Many public health agencies no longer report daily (or even weekly) coronavirus statistics, making it difficult to know the scope of the current spike. Yet both hospitalizations and deaths are rising.
To be clear, nobody thinks the nation is approaching anything like the devastating Delta and Omicron waves of the pandemic’s earlier stages. Virtually everyone in the United States now has some immunity from the virus, whether through infection, inoculation or some combination of both.
Anecdotally, however, the stories of sick relatives and neighbors, of parties canceled and trips delayed, suggest that the virus is reasserting itself. To some, infection may prove little more than an inconvenience, but to the elderly and immunocompromised, as well as to people who simply don’t have the opportunity to take several days off work, the coronavirus continues to represent a very real danger.
Yahoo News spoke with Dr. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the best way to think about the coronavirus in the fall of 2023.
Before joining the CDC at its Atlanta headquarters earlier this year, he served as the director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where he led the state’s pandemic response.
Read more on Yahoo Life: New poll finds 15% of Americans have had COVID 2 or 3 times. How harmful are repeat infections?
Yahoo News: Is right now a good moment to get the booster?
Dr. Nirav Shah: Now is a great time. I spent a chunk of the weekend helping my mom, aunts and uncles, cousin, cousins’ kids, my in-laws, helping them find appointments and get scheduled for this week for their COVID booster.
I know there are folks that are always trying to time it. It's a little bit like playing the market. I care a lot more that you get the COVID booster rather than when you get it. So if your internal clock is telling you to wait two weeks, great, wait two weeks. I just care that you get it.
The newest vaccine will continue to be effective against both of the variants now circulating, EG.5 and this newest BA.2.86.
Read more on Yahoo News: What you need to know about COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, from Prevention
Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite subject: masking.
What I’m focused on is making space for people who wish to wear a mask. That is their choice. And I think we should all collectively respect that choice. You just don’t know why someone is wearing a mask. You don’t know if they just got exposed five days ago and are following CDC guidelines. You don’t know if they have a kidney transplant, you don’t know if they’re caring for a mother with cancer.
No. 2, there has been some internet hoax-style reporting that CDC was going to move to reintroduce mandates. That is, again, a hoax. There is no truth to any of those things. Masking remains, fundamentally, an individual choice.
Read more on Yahoo Life: New poll finds only 12% of Americans typically wear a mask in public
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been an especially avid critic of vaccines and masks. Dr. Joseph Ladapo, that state’s surgeon general, has told people not to get the booster. Can you address that?
If people have questions about the safety or effectiveness of vaccines, we want to be a trusted source for answers. In this respect, though, we disagree with Dr. Ladapo.
One argument is that the vaccines are simply not effective, particularly in younger people. The data don’t back that up.
The other thing that skeptics talk about is the risks. And there they tend to point to one risk in particular, an inflammation called myocarditis. And that was a concern earlier on, when two doses were given. Now that we’ve moved to just one dose, we have found that myocarditis rates are really rare. But we’re still keeping our eyes open, to be clear.
Read more on Yahoo News: Florida surgeon general misleads the public — again, from Miami Herald