In recent weeks, America has been seeing a constant increase in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, a trend that is expected to continue in the upcoming period as a part of the summer Covid-19 wave that now affects the majority of countries worldwide. Some countries have recently started to use the well-known pandemic measures again, such as requiring proof of vaccination and having people wear face masks when indoors.
Federal health officials were reporting a pretty low number of cases for weeks in the period from March to mid-April, but since then, the number of cases has been rising steadily. On Thursday, July 21, the country added a total of 153,040 new cases, bringing the 14-day average to 128,513 cases per day. Per the Times’ Covid-19 tracker, the number of new cases is up by 19%, while the number of hospitalizations is up by 18% in the last two weeks.
For many, the recent numbers come as a surprise, especially taking into consideration the fact that America has one of the best Covid-19 vaccination rates so far. Per the CDC’s vaccination data, nearly 79% of Americans are vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccines, while more than 67% of the population are considered fully vaccinated. Vaccinated with at least one booster dose are 107,468,726 people, or 48.2% of the fully vaccinated.
Health experts have been constantly advising that new variants of the virus will emerge over time, variants that will easily evade immunity against the virus. What was considered to be a ‘likely scenario’ since the pandemic began is now a reality. According to the available data, most of the people infected with Covid-19 recently were infected with BA.5, an Omicron sub-variant that is known to easily evade both vaccine immunity and immunity developed from previous infection. This is the simplest answer to those asking why America is yet again hit by another Covid-19 despite the majority of Americans being considered immune against the deadly virus.
Both vaccine immunity and immunity developed as a result of a previous infection are waning over time. Everyone, including those who have recovered from the virus, has been highly advised to get vaccinated against the virus and further improve their immunity. Even in the worst-case scenarios, experts expected that immunity should and would last for at least 90 days, a period in which they believed it was highly unlikely for a person to get re-infected with Covid-19 once recovered. But Omicron and its subvariants are full of surprises, and that was once again confirmed earlier this week when several news outlets reported about a couple who tested positive for the virus twice in less than 90 days.
Don Seiffert and Laura Justice, both of Massachusetts, contracted the virus in May. The couple tested positive for Covid-19 and were isolated for several days. Just like the majority of the people that contracted the virus recently, Don and Laura developed only mild symptoms during the isolation period and recovered with no serious difficulties. “It was actually no big deal,” Don recalled.
Taking into consideration the fact that Don and his wife had developed natural immunity after recovering from their first infection, the couple decided it was time to have some fun and flew to Ireland to enjoy a mask-free vacation, thinking they’d be protected from the virus on vacation in July. During their vacation, the couple barely used face masks even though they had a pretty active vacation, visiting lots of pubs and getting into crowded castles.
The couple returned from their long-awaited and mask-free vacation last week. Both of them started developing flu-like symptoms, but they initially thought it was due to jetlag. Two days after getting back home, the symptoms they initially developed were only growing stronger.
“We got back from Ireland on Friday. Obviously, I was pretty jetlagged. I started having a sore throat on Saturday night and by Sunday I was like prone on my bed and wasn’t able to get up very easily,” Don said to CBS News.
Don and Laura couldn’t think of being infected with Covid-19 for a second time in less than three months. However, the positive tests proved them wrong.
“We felt pretty safe. We were wrong,” said Laura after testing positive for Covid-19 for a second time in less than 90 days.
The second day after their arrival back home, Don felt so sick he couldn’t leave his bed. Laura was congested and exhausted, and her head hurt. Both of them agree that the symptoms they developed during the second infection were worse than they had been the first time around. Despite the symptoms, they recovered from Covid-19.
Experts agree that re-infections in such short periods of time were uncommon with the initial strains, but with Omicron and its subvariants in place, stories like this are becoming more common, which is another proof that the virus evolves and new, improved vaccines are now needed more than ever.