COVID-19: Weekly Update (September 12, 2022)

The Biden administration announced the plan for managing COVID-19 this fall by raising awareness about the updated vaccines and making them more accessible. A new study suggests that psychological distress before the infection is a risk factor for developing long COVID-19.

The 7-day moving average of daily new cases decreased by 18.8% compared with the previous week. There is also a 10.5% drop in new hospital admissions and a 28.1% decrease in deaths.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive also decreased by 9.1% from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Making vaccines more accessible

The Biden administration on Thursday announced a plan for COVID-19 management this fall that includes the rollout of updated bivalent (two-strain) Covid-19 vaccines targeting the initial SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron variants BA.4/5.

The Biden administration has secured over 170 million of the new bivalent vaccine doses, which will be administered “in tens of thousands of locations.” According to the plan, around 90% of Americans will have free vaccines within 5 miles of where they live.

The strategy will also focus on ensuring awareness of updated vaccines by reaching out to the people most at risk and launching a public education campaign.

The Biden administration says it is purchasing more at-home COVID-19 tests for the nation’s stockpile and bolstering the manufacturing of tests made in America. The plan also includes calling on Congress to provide additional COVID-19 funding.

A risk factor for long COVID-19

A new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress, and loneliness, before COVID-19 infection was associated with an increased risk of long COVID-19.

Research enrolled 54,000 nurses in April 2020. Participants were mostly female (97%), with a median age of 57. At the beginning of the study, the researchers asked the participants about their psychological distress. Over the following year, more than 3,000 participants contracted COVID-19, and the researchers asked participants about their COVID-19 symptoms and symptom duration.

After analyzing the responses and comparing those who developed long COVID-19 to those who did not, the researchers determined that distress before COVID-19 infection was associated with a 32%-46% increased risk of long COVID-19. These types of psychological distress were also associated with a 15%–51% greater risk of daily life impairment due to long COVID-19.

Authors of the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, say that baseline psychological health should also be considered a risk factor for developing long COVID-19. However, the study ended in November 2021, so the association between baseline distress and long COVID-19 following infection with an Omicron variant was not studied.

Although having more than one type of psychological distress at baseline increased the risk of post-COVID symptoms, the authors were also careful to note that 40% of those reporting long COVID-19 symptoms had no baseline distress.

Distress has been linked in the literature to prolonged symptoms following Lyme infection. Inflammation and immune dysregulation may account for the apparent link between psychological distress and post-COVID symptoms. The biopsychosocial pathways which affect the immune function and recovery from illness should be explored further.

The global decline in cases, deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday that the global decline in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths is continuing. The organization called this trend “very encouraging” but said there is no guarantee that it will persist.

The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized that even though the number of weekly reported deaths dropped by more than 80% since February, one person with COVID-19 died every 44 seconds the previous week.

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