As COVID-19 cases drastically subside following the surge related to the Omicron variant, Americans are beginning to relax restrictions and anxieties related to the pandemic. However, other countries around the world are now struggling to contain Omicron surges that arrived much later and experts are warning that complacency could invite a new variant to emerge.
In Arizona, there were 457 deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic this week and 5,153 new cases, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 data dashboard. The number of COVID patients using inpatient or intensive care unit (ICU) beds is still on a steep decline but beds remain at a high-level of use with 7% and 9% of beds available, respectively.
South Korea had it’s deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday, with 293 reported deaths from COVID-19. Korean hospitals are also experiencing higher caseloads with 1,196 patients in serious or critical condition. From senior Health Ministry official Park Hyang, via Associated Press:
We anticipate the number of (serious or critical cases) to grow to around 2,000. We are preparing our medical response for that.
CNN reports that daily cases in the United Kingdom are dramatically increasing — up 48% in the past week — and steadily rising in more than half of the countries in the European Union.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised testing requirements for long-term care facilities residents and staff. McKnight’s reports that staff and patients with symptoms or signs of COVID-19 must be tested for the coronavirus immediately, regardless of vaccination status and extends the requirement to residents and staff who have been in close contact or exposed to someone in the facility that tested positive. It also suggests routine testing of staff members who are not up-to-date on vaccination.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a short-term increase in “highly focused” inspections of nursing facilities and hospitals that provide care for COVID-19 patients. According to Skilled Nursing News, OSHA will verify employer compliance actions, including their preparedness for future COVID-19 surges.
CVS Health and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine will collaborate for a number of public service announcements that will focus on the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding. CVS Health announced the initiative, citing recommendations by medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent surveys show that only 33% of all pregnant women and 17% of pregnant Black women have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
University of Arizona
An ongoing research study at University of Arizona Health Sciences demonstrates that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is moderately effective in the prevention of COVID-19 spread and a reduction in infection among children and adolescents. The study is conducted in collaboration with the CDC’s PROTECT study and found that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection with the Omicron variant by 31% in children ages 5-11 and 59% in adolescents ages 12-15.
The University of Arizona will also lift its mask requirements in most places, KJZZ reports. The change in University policy is in line with the CDC’s recently updated guidance for communities with low and medium levels of COVID-19 transmission.