Last August, the Delta variant of COVID-19 caused a surge in cases across the United States, once again causing extended hospital stays and deaths. The Delta variant of COVID-19 caused approximately 13 deaths per every 1,000 cases per a Harvard study carried out in early 2022. When Omicron was identified earlier this year, it was described as a milder, yet more contagious form of the virus.
This is something natural that occurs when a virus makes its rounds through the populace. As a virus mutates, it often becomes more virulent, but causes weaker symptoms in the patient. Many scientists began to hope that the new variant meant the world was heading toward the endemic stage of COVID-19.
With President Joe Biden being diagnosed with COVID – as well as many other prominent members of society – people are starting to focus on COVID once more. In the last few months, multiple members of the White House staff have been diagnosed with COVID, and celebrities such as Denzel Washington and Martha Stewart have both tested positive just this summer.
While COVID has never completely left the talking points of the media or public thought (some states or cities are still requiring masks in public at a minimum of COVID restrictions), the American people are, unfortunately, COVID weary.
UC-Davis Health recently released an article on “COVID fatigue,” and they admitted that this is a “trending” topic. Most Americans decided that, in spite of record high inflation and fuel prices, a summer vacation was in order. For some, this was the first summer vacation in three years. UC-Davis Health says COVID fatigue is “real and strong.”
COVID fatigue is leading to stress and exhaustion among Americans, and for good reason. UC-Davis discusses how people are “frazzled.” “Abnormal is the new normal,” says the author. So many Americans can relate. For three years now, we’ve bent to mask mandates, closures of schools, canceling of proms or other school traditions, postponed weddings, and so much more. While these inconveniences were tough enough, extended hospital stays, family members dying alone, people who lost their livelihoods really added to the negative effects of COVID.
So, yes, Americans are definitely tired of COVID. Yes, COVID fatigue is real.
Yet, Americans are seeing a surge once more in COVID cases, chiefly due to the Omicron variant – and mutations of the Omicron variant.
Americans have chiefly been told that the Omicron variant isn’t as deadly as previous variants, but cases are spiking in the United Kingdom – and other countries including the United States are fearing a new surge in Omicron cases. In particular, scientists are concerned with the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron, due to mutations in the spike proteins of these variants. They can potentially “retrain their attack on human lung cells,” according to the latest data.
Scientists say that this mutation makes these particular strains of Omicron more like the Alpha strain and the Delta strain of COVID-19. They say that these strains may also be able to reinfect people with some natural immunity to previous strains of COVID, and they may also render COVID vaccines useless.
Professor Kei Sato of the University of Toyko has been studying these mutations of the Omicron variant. His experiments show that “the variants replicate more efficiently in the lungs than Omicron.” Sato has also completed studies on hamsters that hint the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of Omicron “may bring more severe disease.”
So far, the World Health Organization has added the two subvariants to their “monitoring list.”
Should Americans be worried about Omicron variants? In the UK, deaths remain low, but hospitalizations are increasing. The week after Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum celebration, the percentage of cases went up nearly forty percent. So, large public gatherings in the United States, such as county fairs common in late summer, could lead to an uptick in American COVID be cases.
Americans are weary of COVID, and rightly so. Yet, warnings from scientists hold that we could be looking at an uptick in a mutation of the virus that doesn’t heed immunity (vaccinated or natural). Currently, these sub-variants account for about 21 percent of new cases. No one knows for certain how deadly these sub-variants will be, or if they will causes a surge the way Delta did in 2021.