Is COVID endemic? Here’s what health experts are saying.
How soon could we see COVID-19 go from pandemic to endemic? Here’s what we know now.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people in 16 Michigan counties wear masks again in indoor, public places as the coronavirus surges and hospitalizations climb.
The CDC updated its map Thursday evening that details community risk from COVID-19, showing all of metro Detroit now in the high-risk category as well as many counties in the northwestern lower peninsula.
They are: Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, St. Clair, Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, Cheboygan, Antrim, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Manistee and Calhoun.
In those 16 high-risk counties, the CDC recommends:
- Wearing a mask in indoor, public places.
- Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters if you’re eligible.
- Getting tested if you’re symptomatic.
- If you are at high risk for severe disease from the virus, the agency recommends considering other precautions, such as avoiding nonessential indoor activities that could lead to exposure.
Even though masks are recommended yet again in large swaths of the state, public health officials in Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw and Macomb counties and the city of Detroit told the Free Press on Friday they aren’t going to mandate them at this stage.
“We are not planning to issue orders at this point,” said Susan Ringler Cerniglia, a spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Department. “Based on our guidance, we expect some entities, especially our higher-risk or group settings, to require it again while we’re at a high community level. This would include schools, public agencies, shelters, etc. if they’re not currently requiring universal masking indoors.”
As the omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 gain prevalence, the virus is spreading quickly in other parts of the state as well.
Twenty-eight Michigan counties now have moderate levels of transmission, according to the CDC.
They are: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Marquette, Presque Isle, Alpena, Montmorency, Otsego, Alcona, Crawford, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Kent, Barry, Kalamazoo, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, Ingham, Shiawassee, Saginaw, Midland, Bay, Genesee, Sanilac, Monroe, Lenawee, Jackson.
In those counties, the CDC recommends:
- Talking to your health care provider about whether to wear a mask or take other precautions if you’re at high risk for severe illness with COVID-19.
- Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
- Getting tested if you are symptomatic.
The state health department reported 901 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of coronavirus Friday — more than double the number hospitalized a month ago, when 429 people with the virus were getting hospital care.
It’s still nowhere near the levels of COVID-19 hospitalization Michigan saw in January, when the state hit pandemic peaks with more than 4,600 people hospitalized.
The state reached a seven-day average of 3,958 new daily cases on Wednesday — the highest point since February, when Michigan was coming down from the initial omicron surge.
The latest wave of infections comes as the nation marked its 1 millionth death from the virus and U.S. flags across the country are lowered to half-staff to honor the dead.
What it means: COVID-19 cases in Michigan expected to climb through May
Even though few pandemic restrictions remain in place, people can still choose to take steps to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, boosted and using some tried-and-true mitigation measures, according to Emily Martin, associate professor of epidemiology for the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“Even though the political landscape has changed and sort of the recommendation landscape has changed, the same things work now that worked a few months ago,” Martin said in a Twitter Space chat discussing the future of COVID-19.
“Masks still work, and higher-quality masks still provide a higher level of protection. Being outdoors is still better than being indoors and being in less crowded spaces is still … better than being in crowded spaces.”
Treatments like the antiviral drug Paxlovid are available now that can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus. Monoclonal antibody therapy is an option, too, for people who are vulnerable.
“And the sooner you test, the sooner you can access treatment and the sooner … you use them, the better they work,” Martin said. “There are things that we can do with a positive result to make you feel better. And so it’s important to test so that you know that you’re positive so then you can seek the treatment.”
That the state is in the throes of yet another COVID-19 surge is frustrating to Lauren Metiva, 42, of Wyandotte.
A home health nurse, Metiva is fully vaccinated and two of her three children are, too. But her youngest daughter, 4½-year-old Annabelle, is still not eligible because none of the COVID-19 vaccines have won emergency-use authorization for kids under the age of 5.
Metiva said she bristles when public health leaders talk about personal responsibility in getting vaccinated because that isn’t an option for her daughter.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard from any of the health officials or experts the caveat of ‘Well, we’re sorry. We recognize that this still isn’t available for a certain amount of the population.’ It’s just frustrating to read it over and over and over again get vaccinated and I cannot get her vaccinated,” she said.
Though a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee is scheduled in early June to discuss applications from Pfizer and Moderna to use their vaccines in kids as young as 6 months old, it feels to Metiva like young children have been left out for too long.
“I just have seen firsthand how devastating COVID can be to healthy individuals,” she said. “I’m worried about COVID. I’m worried about the inflammatory disease they’ve seen in children. I’m worried about long COVID. I’m worried about all the opportunities to do things that I’ve kept her from.
“I’ve kept her out of preschool. We did do swim lessons, but when she’s doing swim lessons there is a lot of anxiety. It’s gone on for so long that I feel like I’m constantly calculating risk about where it’s better to take her and where it’s better to pass. It’s been a really long time and I’m very frustrated.”
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.