US records 100 million cases of Covid, but more than 200 million Americans likely have had it

The United States recorded more than 100 million formally diagnosed and reported cases of Covid-19 this week, but the number of Americans who have actually had the virus since the start of the pandemic is likely more than double that..

Covid-19 has easily infected more than 200 million in the US alone since the start of the pandemic, some people more than once. The virus continues to evolve into more transmissible variants that evade immunity from vaccination and prior infection, making transmission incredibly difficult to control as we enter the fourth year of the pandemic.

The United States officially recorded more than 100 million cases as of Tuesday, just under a third of the total population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to scientists, the data is not perfect and is likely a huge undercount of the actual number of infections. Although it counts people who have tested positive more than once or caught Covid multiple times, it does not capture the number of Covid patients who were asymptomatic and never tested or tested at home and did not they have reported it.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director under the Obama administration, estimates that the reported data reflects less than half of the true total.

“There have been at least 200 million infections in the US, so this is a small fraction of them,” Frieden said. “The question really is whether we will be better prepared for Covid and other health threats in the future, and the jury is still very much out on that,” he said.

The CDC estimated last spring that nearly 187 million people in the United States had caught Covid at least once through February 2022, more than double the number of officially reported cases at that time. The estimate was based on a survey of commercial laboratory data that found about 58 percent of Americans had antibodies as a result of a Covid infection. The survey did not take into account reinfections or vaccination antibodies.

The CDC has since recorded more than 21 million confirmed cases from March to December. 21 this year, although this is an underestimate because people using rapid home tests are not captured in the data.

The more than 21 million additional confirmed cases to the CDC’s February estimate of about 187 million total infections gives a low estimate of more than 208 million infections since the pandemic began.

“It’s very difficult to stop this virus, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve focused on hospitalizations and deaths and not just counting cases,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and director of the U.S. Pandemic Center. the Brown University School of Public Health.

The United States has made significant progress since the darkest days of the pandemic. Deaths have fallen by about 90% since the peak of the pandemic in January 2021, when more than 3,000 people succumbed to the virus daily before widespread vaccination. Daily hospital admissions have fallen 77% from a peak of more than 21,000 in January 2022 during the massive Omicron surge.

Despite this progress, deaths and hospitalizations remain very high given the widespread availability of vaccines and treatments. About 400 people still die a day from the virus and about 5,000 are admitted to hospital every day. The virus is still circulating at what would have been considered a high level before the pandemic, with nearly 70,000 confirmed cases per day on average, a significantly lower count due to at-home testing.

More than a million people have died in the United States from Covid since the pandemic began, more than any other country in the world.

“I think people have hardened,” Frieden said of the Covid toll. “Covid is a new bad thing in our environment, and it’s likely to be here for the long term. We don’t know how this is going to evolve, whether it’s going to become less virulent, more virulent, it’s going to have years of getting better and worse.”

The White House Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is stepping down this month, has said the U.S. can consider it a pandemic when hospitalizations and deaths from Covid drop to a level similar to the flu burden.

For the first time, both viruses are circulating simultaneously at high levels. From October to the first week of December, the flu killed 12,000 people, while Covid claimed more than 27,000 lives during that period.

“We’re still in the middle of it, it’s not over,” Fauci said on the “Conversations on Health Care” radio show in November. “Four hundred deaths a day is not an acceptable level. We want it to be much lower than that.”

Frieden said 95% of people who die from Covid are not up to date on their vaccinations and 75% of people who would benefit from the antiviral Paxlovid do not receive it.

“We should celebrate these great tools that we have, but we’re not doing a good job of getting them into people and that would not only save lives, but reduce the disruption of Covid,” he said.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the coordinator of the White House’s Covid task force, has said that people who are up to date on their vaccines and receive treatment when they have a breakthrough infection are almost at no risk of dying from Covid at this point in the pandemic Jha has particularly urged older Americans, who are more vulnerable to serious illness, to push for more protection during the holidays.

“There are still too many older Americans who haven’t upgraded their immunity and haven’t protected themselves,” Jha told reporters at the White House last week.

Michael Osterholm, a leading epidemiologist, said new variants of Covid will pose the biggest threat to the progress the United States has made by 2023.

China has eased its strict zero-Covid policy, which was intended to crush outbreaks of the virus, in response to widespread social unrest during the fall. Infections are skyrocketing in the country, raising concerns that Covid now has even more room to mutate.

The virus has continued to mutate into increasingly transmissible versions of omicron over the past year, while immunity from vaccination or previous infection has waned.

“We want to believe that after three years of activity, all the immunity we should have acquired through vaccination or prior infection should protect us,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “But with waning immunity and variants, we can’t say that.”

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