The explosive increase in U.S. coronavirus case counts is raising alarm, but some experts believe the focus should instead be on COVID-19 hospital admissions. And those aren’t climbing as fast.
Reports say that hasn’t stopped Congress from eyeing yet another coronavirus pandemic spending bill.
“Early efforts by Democrat and Republican lawmakers have focused primarily on authorizing billions of dollars to help businesses including restaurants, performance venues, gyms, and minor league sports teams, the report said, citing four people familiar with the matter,” Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported that Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., are working together on a roughly $68 billion spending bill. The two are reportedly working to recruit Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark R. Warner, D-Va., to gain bipartisan support for the third spending plan.
Critics say the new spending isn’t necessary after the U.S. government spent almost $6 trillion on coronavirus relief in the past two years. Hospitalization rates have climbed, but not nearly as fast as positive COVID-19 cases — an indication that the omicron variant is far less deadly than prior variants.
Even White House Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted Sunday on ABC News, with many infections causing few or no symptoms, “It is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases.”
As the super-contagious omicron variant rages across the U.S., new COVID-19 cases per day have tripled over the past two weeks. Schools, hospitals, and airlines are struggling with staffing issues as infected workers go into quarantine.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions averaged 14,800 per day last week. That’s up 63% from the week before, but still short of the peak of 16,500 per day a year ago, when the vast majority of the U.S. was unvaccinated.
Additionally, deaths have been stable over the past two weeks at an average of about 1,200 per day, well below the all-time high of 3,400 last January.
Sponsored: The 3 foods that GROW cancer
Public health experts say that those numbers, taken together, could reflect the vaccine’s continued effectiveness at preventing serious illness, even against omicron. It also seems likely that the variant does not make most people as sick as earlier versions.
Omicron accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday, in another indication of how astonishingly fast the variant has spread since it was first detected in South Africa in late November.
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of ICAP, a global health center at Columbia University, also told The Associated Press that the case count does not appear to be the most important number now.
Instead, she said, the U.S. at this stage of the pandemic should be “shifting our focus, especially in an era of vaccination, to really focus on preventing illness, disability, and death, and therefore counting those.”
Daily case counts and their ups and downs have been one of the most closely watched barometers during the outbreak by the mainstream media.
But experts say they should be considered an imperfect measure, in part because they consist primarily of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, not the actual number of infections out there, which is almost certainly many times higher.
Sponsored: Eerie WW2 Photo Reveals Shocking Secret
The daily case counts are also subject to wild swings. The number of new cases recorded on Monday topped an unprecedented 1 million, a figure that may reflect cases that had been held up by reporting delays over the holiday weekend. The seven-day rolling average is considered more reliable.
Now, the value of the daily case count is being called into question as never before.
For one thing, the skyrocketing increase reflects, at least in part, an omicron-induced stampede among many Americans to get tested before holiday gatherings, and new testing requirements at workplaces and at restaurants, theaters, and other sites.
Also, the true number of infections is probably much higher than the case count because the results of the at-home tests that Americans are using do not add to the official tally, and because long waits have discouraged some people wild mild symptoms from lining up to get tested at public sites.
But also, case numbers seem to yield a less useful picture of the pandemic amid the spread of omicron, which is causing lots of infections but so far does not appear to be as severe in its effects.
Case counts have lost relevance, said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Surprise! Eggs do this to senior brains [Sponsored]
“Hospitalizations are where the rubber meets the road,” Noymer said. “It’s a more objective measure.” He added: “If I had to choose one metric, I would choose the hospitalization data.”
Even hospital numbers aren’t a perfect reflection of disease severity because they include patients admitted for other health problems who happen to test positive for the coronavirus.
All of that calls into question the need for further government spending, Republican leaders have repeatedly stated — especially considering much of the original relief bill monies have yet to be spent.
“Many Republicans have long maintained that additional aid is unnecessary. GOP lawmakers voted unanimously against the American Rescue Plan last spring, calling much of its spending wasteful,” The Washington Post reported. “Months later, their opposition threatens to complicate any effort to advance even a smaller, targeted stimulus measure through the narrowly divided Senate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article