In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still responding to a global outbreak of COVID-19. Five variants of the virus have spread worldwide in the last three years. The newest variant, omicron, is far more contagious. Omicron has caused a huge spike in cases, now accounting for 3 out of 4 cases in the United States.
Since January 2020, the disease has spread to every state. As of January 2022, COVID-19 killed at least 850 thousand Americans and infected about 66.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 3 people in the United States has already been infected, more than three times the official count; it is possible that most Americans will be infected with COVID at some point.
COVID is now the third-leading cause of death in the USA, behind only heart disease and cancer.
California, Texas, Florida, and New York have each recorded more than 60 thousand deaths. Rhode Island, North Dakota, and Alaska have reported the most cases per person (based on population) while Mississippi and Arizona lead the country in deaths per person.
The virus is transmitted person-to-person through the air. This is why facemasks, social distancing, and avoiding indoor public spaces are so important.
COVID-19 has a very wide range of severity. Most people who get COVID suffer a mild illness. One patient in six develops breathing problems. Some people never knew they had it, or tested positive but never had any symptoms, while at the other end people are severely ill, some are hospitalized, and some die. Another concern is the appearance of so-called “long-haul” COVID symptoms among people who had no symptoms or were treated but still have some symptoms months later and are unable to live or work normally. “Long haulers” tend to be middle-aged women.
Who is most at risk?
Unvaccinated people, older adults, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions can be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19:
- With neurological disorders (includes epilepsy, migraines, dementia)
- With lung disease (includes asthma, pneumonia)
- With heart conditions
- With deficient immune systems
- With diabetes
- With chronic kidney disease
- With liver disease
Best practices to protect you and your family:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a facemask when you have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store.
- Maintain “social distancing”. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (two arms lengths) between yourself and other people.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses.
- Wash your hands frequently. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. This kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell. Seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick. Isolate from other household members as much as possible. Wear facemasks when you must be together. Follow the other guidelines above.
With so many COVID virus variants, the CDC’s list of possible symptoms is getting longer. Get tested if you have any of these symptoms:
- ·Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
NOTE: This article was written in January 2022 based on data available at that time.