Source: New Jersey Patch
The United States should stand guard against another COVID spike this winter, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told National Public Radio. “It stands to reason that as we get into November, December, maybe January, we are going to see an increase in infections across much of the country.”
Just in time for the year-end holidays (Halloween through New Year’s Day), several omicron mutations have sparked concerns: BQ.1.1, BQ.1, BQ.1.3, BA.2.3.20 and XBB. Experts say the XBB mutation is “immune evasive,” but the strain has not yet been detected in New Jersey.
Preventing a repeat of a year-end spike in the U.S. will depend heavily upon vaccination rates (75% in New Jersey) and the precautions people take.
As of this week, people 5 and older are eligible for the bivalent booster vaccine. The updated dose offers stronger protections against severe illness and death by targeting the original COVID strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, according to health officials. Thirty-nine people in New Jersey died from the virus in the past week, according to the CDC.
Only about 11.5 million Americans have received the updated booster, which became available in early September. Fortunately, Jha expects that figure to rise due to people also getting seasonal flu vaccines in October and November.
The CDC adopted the community-level metric, based on hospitalizations and case rates. New Jersey currently has no counties in the high level the for second straight week.
Hospitalization totals remain relatively steady, typically ranging between 1,000-1,100 hospital patients with confirmed or suspected COVID, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
COVID vaccines substantially improve protection against substantial disease and infection. The CDC’s mask recommendations do not trigger any mandates in New Jersey. People may also choose to continue masking in any setting.