Is the Covid situation substantially different enough today to shift policy?

After considering several factors in the differing reactions to the easing of restrictions meant to curb Covid, I’ve come to the conclusion that the subject line is the foundation of the matter. Lots of people look at the number of deaths and the state of hospital capacity and say, “obviously this is way too high, and we need to continue aggressive measures until those numbers get better.” This makes sense, of course; there ARE a lot of people dying and hospitals ARE full and their staff overworked. So it’s not time yet to ease off aggressive restrictions…right?

That’s what I wanted to discuss here: to put aside emotional reactions to the statistics and gain a better understanding of the current situation from the layman’s perspective.

Obviously, the situation now is better than it was in 2020. But is it enough to justify easing restrictions from a public health standpoint?

Do you have any cites for this? Or is this a “lots of people feel this way” statement?

Hospitals in my area aren’t full and haven’t been in quite a while. And I’m in an area where basically no one masks anymore. I do hear of people around me catching COVID, but they all seem to deal with it in an out-patient setting, rather than needing hospitalization.

The worst I’ve seen is one old college friend with an impaired immune system who needed oxygen, but she still got it in an at-home setting.

This Washington Post article (yes, I know, probably paywalled) shows rolling graphs, dating back to the beginning of the pandemic, on cases, hospitalizations (with a breakout for ICU bed occupancy), and deaths.

  • The U.S. has been averaging from 100K-130K new daily cases all summer; that’s higher than it was in the spring, but far, far lower than it was last winter, when we were averaging between 300K and 800K new cases per day.
  • COVID hospitalizations are currently averaging a bit over 40,000, and ICU beds occupied by COVID cases around 5000. (For reference, there are 893K staffed hospital beds in the U.S., and about 85K ICU beds.) When we had the peak last winter, we were at around 150K hospitalizations, and 25K filled ICU beds.
  • COVID deaths are averaging about 400-500 a day; last winter, the average was more like 2,500 per day.

Is the healthcare system still stressed by COVID, and are a lot of healthcare workers burned out? Absolutely. But, hospitals and ICU beds are not even close to full, even compared to last winter, much less the winter of 2020-21, when we didn’t have widespread vaccinations.

Yes, 130K new cases each day is a lot. Yes, 400 deaths a day is too many. But, as I’ve replied to you in another thread – this disease is not going to go down to zero effect any time soon. We have vaccines, and we have treatments, and for most people, COVID is not nearly the health emergency it was one year ago, or two years ago. And, these much lower numbers this summer are despite the fact that we’re now dealing with Omicron variants, which are far more contagious than previous variants were.

At 400-ish deaths per day, that’d be about 150,000 deaths per year from COVID – less than half what we had in 2020, and on a par with deaths from stroke and lower-respiratory diseases. (Source)

At what point do you, @Leaper, feel that things are “good enough” to remove restrictions (restrictions that Americans, broadly, have been ignoring for a year or more, anyway?)

Around 16% of hospitals are under high or extreme stress. So not everywhere (for the moment), but some places.

Which is kind of the point of the OP’s question. If we go back to doing nothing, it’s just a matter of time before either more hospitals are stressed or it just keeps shifting from region to region as new variants make the rounds.

I’d like to see the death rate drop down to around 100 a day like flu, but I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

I had seen that NPR chart, too – but note that “high stress” is defined as “10 to 20% of their beds have COVID patients,” and “extreme stress” is over 20%, and that, in recent months, the percent of hospitals in that “extreme stress” group is pretty low.

Except that we aren’t actually going back to “doing nothing.” 67% of Americans are vaccinated (and something like 3/4 of them have also gotten a booster), and we have several drug treatments that can, in many cases, prevent serious illness and death for people who get sick with COVID.

In my mind, the issue is this: it’s entirely possible that, in the months or years to come, we may be faced with a COVID variant which is both very contagious, and much more likely to cause serious illness, even among the vaccinated and those who have previously had COVID. That’s the point at which re-instituting restrictions would, indeed, feel more prudent.

But, right now, while people are still getting COVID, most people who are getting it aren’t getting seriously ill or needing hospitalization. Keeping the restrictions going now sends the message to people that the CDC and the local health authorities are just “chicken littles,” and that the restrictions can be safely ignored (which is, essentially, what many Americans have been doing for the last year anyway) – and that’s a mindset that will be dangerous if we do, indeed, actually need the re-implementation of restrictions in the future.

I don’t understand this point. The easing restrictions are coming directly from the CDC. That’s the exact opposite of emotional reactions. Although I’m sure they look at practical social reactions, the main numbers are unquestionably coming from statistics.

It’s not like the CDC is hiding anything. They accompanied the change in guidelines with a paper.

COVID-19 remains an ongoing public health threat; however, high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of medical and nonpharmaceutical interventions have substantially reduced the risk for medically significant illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. As transmission of SARS-CoV-2 continues, the current focus on reducing medically significant illness, death, and health care system strain are appropriate and achievable aims that are supported by the broad availability of the current suite of effective public health tools. Rapid identification of emergent variants necessitating a shift in prevention strategy makes continued detection, monitoring, and characterization of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants essential. Incorporating actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 into long-term sustainable routine practices is imperative for society and public health.

Why shouldn’t we be listening to the CDC at this point? Isn’t questioning their considered latest judgements the very definition of an emotion reaction?

The entire point of the OP is questioning whether the CDC is basing their recommendations on facts. The usual allegation I’m seeing is that the CDC is in fact giving in to business interests. That was already the claim back when they shortened the duration of masking after contact. Or when they kept their recommendations the same while other nations were gearing up for more.

The question from the OP was whether or not the actual statistics support the change the CDC made. So arguing they must be right because the CDC made them is ultimately begging the question.

The answer seems to be “yes,” there is a valid reason to lower the recommendations. But you wouldn’t know that from how this stuff is being talked about online.

That wasn’t at all clear to me from the OP.

It is clear that no possible answer could come from us as to whether the CDC is giving in to business interests. At best posters could give the standard statistics handed out by governments, which is exactly what happened.

If the OP really was asking that question, the correct and only answer is “don’t listen to idiots.” Since that answer has been the correct and only answer for two years now, I’m dubious that the situation is substantially different.

The YLE post below reflects largely how I feel, but the key quote for me relevant to this thread is

IMHO, the CDC should be doing far more of the latter. That they are settling so much for (or being forced to do) the former is an extreme failure of leadership.

I don’t see people living differently than they did pre-COVID at this point, other than it’s common to see masks. People I know are back at work, at least a few days/week, going to concerts and restaurants. I’m not sure what there is to go back to, at this point. And, I’m in a deep blue area in a blue state – when the shut down was on, this place was a ghost town.

What is it we would do differently if we did nothing?

To me at least, the big difference is the available vaccines and boosters. I’m an example of how my vaccines/boosters may have made the difference between being really sick for almost two weeks and being hospitalized or dead.

And those are only doing so-so at preventing severe outcomes considering there are 450 deaths a day currently. Vaccine effectiveness wanes, fewer people are staying up-to-date with boosters, and the “doing nothing” we are talking about is for transmission. Even if CFR is way down, letting transmission run rampant is just not in the interest of public health between multiple infections per year, accumulating damage per infection, and increasing risk of long COVID.

So (and I am being honestly curious) – if you were in charge, what would you do and implement, today? Bear in mind that public tolerance for the sorts of mitigation steps we took in 2020 (closing businesses like theaters and restaurants, mandatory mask wearing, remote learning, etc.) is likely to be far lower now than it was then.

OP, every post you make on this topic seems to indicate that in your mind, today is just the same as March/April 2020. Is this true for you?

Nice article, and good news - it’s free for all!

“The Washington Post is providing this news free to all readers as a public service.”

Lots of charts and graphs to explore there. I got some good info on what’s going on at my state & county level.

A hell of a lot closer than to February 2020, that’s for damn sure. And February 2020 is what everyone seems to want to live like.

I honestly don’t understand how people can go to concerts and sporting events these days, masked or not. (Let me amend here: I definitely do understand. I struggle mightily with my selfishness, as you seem to know.) I read about variants escaping immunity, long Covid disabling people and being ignored by everyone, health care workers and teachers burning out and leaving in droves, and nobody on any level seems willing to make the least sacrifice or spend a penny to prevent or ease any of it. It’s all just the Texas AG saying grandma wants to sacrifice herself for the economy to me. We rightly condemned everyone ignoring masks and vaccines before, and I just don’t see how things have changed enough to turn around and now cater national response to those exact same people. Who cares if they don’t like it? They’re bad people, and their “opinion” can be disregarded, like with the MAGAts. Force reasonable restrictions on them and big business, or make them suffer for refusal. I don’t understand why their fee-fees are more important than the daily death toll.

If you are vaxxed and boosted, your chances of having a serious case just aren’t that high, and your chances of having some sort of long covid are lower still.

I mean, I went to concerts and sporting events even during a bad flu year.

I’m living my life. I was fine with semi-strict restrictions before the vaccine. Now, I’d rather get COVID (again) than spend the next 12 to 36 months avoiding concerts, sporting events, restaurant, etc. It’s nice living normally again.