EDITORIAL: COVID-19 is still out there, and still a threat

·2 min read

Jul. 20—COVID-19 may be treated as endemic in many parts of the country, including in Missouri, but make no mistake — the pandemic is not over, and the virus is surging across most of the nation as new omicron subvariants continue to spread.

For proof, just check the county-level interactive map provided online by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which tracks how transmissible COVID-19 is in a particular community.

Fewer than one-quarter of counties nationwide have a low level of community transmission, and there are no counties in the Four-State Area where community transmission of COVID-19 is low.

Many of us live in counties, including Jasper and Newton, where the level of transmission is medium. For those who live in Vernon County in Southwest Missouri, Crawford and Cherokee counties in Southeast Kansas and Ottawa County in Northeast Oklahoma, the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community is high.

You can also check the Missouri Sewershed Surveillance Project, a collaborative tool that tracks the amount of viral genetic material in wastewater as a way to monitor trends of the virus in communities. Its data, updated as of July 15, shows the viral load increasing at both the Joplin Shoal Creek wastewater treatment plant and the Pineville wastewater treatment plant.

What does this mean?

It means that COVID-19 is still out there and that it is still a threat.

Nationwide, the latest COVID-19 surge is driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 variant, which now accounts for 65% of cases with its cousin BA.4 contributing another 16%, The Associated Press recently reported. The variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by vaccination.

The coronavirus is not killing nearly as many as it was last fall and winter, and experts do not expect deaths to reach those levels again soon. Even so, the seven-day average for daily deaths in the U.S. rose 26% over the past two weeks to 489 on July 12, the AP reported.

We all know by now what to do to keep ourselves and others safe. Vaccinations are free and available to everyone 6 months and older, and booster doses are recommended; vaccines will reduce one's risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. Masks are still proven to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus; wear one when indoors or in large groups.