With a new variant of COVID-19 making the rounds, no one seems immune to infection, including the president.
And local health care officials say they are seeing an increase in cases and hospitalizations and are asking Valley residents to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and boosters.
White House officials announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19. Reports say Biden had both vaccines and boosters, just like the recommended diet for people over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden’s positive test comes less than a week after the Arizona Department of Health Services reported Maricopa County had “high community levels of COVID-19.”
While rating 10 Arizona counties as high community levels, AZDHS Acting Director Don Herrington says masks are recommended for public indoor settings.
“These community levels reflect that COVID-19 remains active in our communities and that we need to act accordingly,” Herrington wrote in his July 15 public blog.
The White House said Biden, 79, had “very mild symptoms,” including a stuffy nose, fatigue and a cough. He takes Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease.
Behind the growing number of cases is the omicron BA.5 sub-variant. It represents a rapidly growing share of sequenced COVID-19 cases in Arizona, Herrington noted, and evidence suggests this subvariant is more effective at evading immune protection afforded by vaccination or prior infection.
Immunity, he says, can begin to wane in the months following the last infection or vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker on Thursday shows US averages of 126,018 new cases per day; 353 new daily deaths; and 6,184 new hospital admissions per day. The United States has seen more than one million COVID deaths since the pandemic began more than two years ago.
In Arizona, the AZDHS showed 17,856 cases as recently as June 26, which was the highest number in the state since February.
As the numbers rise again, a spokesperson for Banner Health said Thursday the rate of increase in cases is more encouraging than a winter surge that has pushed local hospitals to their limits in caring for patients. .
“While we are seeing an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations, this is at a much lower rate than what we have seen in previous surges,” said Sean Logan, senior marketing and public relations specialist at Banner Health, in an email to the Independent. . “Factors include a decrease in disease severity with omicron and the percentage of the population that has up-to-date vaccination and some level of residual immunity from past infection.”
ADHS as of Wednesday shows 73% of Arizonans are vaccinated.
According to the CDC, anyone age 5 and older should receive a booster after completing their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, if eligible. Adults 50 and older are eligible for a second booster, as are those under 50 who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
Boosters can further improve protection that may have diminished over time after a primary vaccination.
Vaccine makers have struggled to adjust their products to match the fast-evolving omicron variant. Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their updated vaccine had shown good results against the variant, and the companies planned to have discussions about rolling out their updated vaccine this fall.
Moderna, another widely used vaccine, also announced last month that it was seeing promise with an omicron version of its product. The company was expected to release more results later this summer.
In May, ADHS reported that unvaccinated people were eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 21 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated with a booster dose.
“We continue to encourage people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already and to stay up to date on recalls, if they are eligible,” Logan added. “Vaccines are still very effective against deadly strains of the virus and minimize the likelihood that a person will be hospitalized or become seriously ill.”
Centers for the Control and Prevention of Disasters,
Arizona Department of Health Services