Survey shows Americans souring on COVID-19 response
Americans are not happy with the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.
The survey of more than 10,000 US adults, conducted in early May, found that 62% think the country’s COVID-19 response has given too little priority to the needs of K-12 students, while significant shares say too little priority has been given to supporting overall quality of life (48%), business and economic activity (46%), and respecting individuals’ choices (46%).
The survey also found the proportion of US adults who rated public health officials as doing an excellent/good responding to the pandemic has fallen from 79% in March 2020 to 52%.
While many Americans appear to be moving on from the pandemic—45% of survey respondents said they now consider COVID-19 a minor threat—there are concerns that the highly transmissible and immune-evasive BA. 5 Omicron sub-variant, which now accounts for 53.6% of new US COVID-19 cases, could change the picture. That appears to be what’s happening in Europe, where BA.5 and BA.4 are driving a new wave of infections, a European Medicines Agency official said yesterday in an online briefing, according to the Associated Press.
The current 7-day average of new US COVID-19 cases is 105,971, with 303 daily deaths and 37,590 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, according to the Washington Post tracker. But as has been the case for several months, the true number of infections is likely much higher, given that many home tests are going unreported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels Map, which is based on hospital admissions and inpatient bed metrics, shows that nearly 59% of US counties have medium-to-high COVID levels.
Meanwhile, the effort to vaccinate children under 5 has gotten off to a slow start. A senior Biden administration official told ABC News that to date, 300,000 children under 5 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine—roughly 1.5% of the 19.5 million US children 4 years old and younger.
Overall, 67% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest CDC update. But booster uptake continues to lag—47.9% of those eligible have received their first booster dose — but only 27.7% of those eligible have received a second booster.
Jul 7 Pew Research Center survey
Wastewater surveillance tool detects SARS-CoV-2 variants earlier, cheaper
Scientists at Scripps Research Institute and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a wastewater surveillance tool that—with just 2 teaspoons of raw sewage—can identify the SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in a population and detect new variants of concern up to 2 weeks before clinical sequencing can.
The algorithm, described in a Nature study published yesterday, is a cheaper, faster, and more accurate method of analyzing SARS-CoV-2 RNA deposited in toilets and sinks by COVID-19–infected people to determine case levels in a population, the researchers said. Until now, they added, wastewater surveillance couldn’t differentiate between variants.
Developed with the San Diego Epidemiology and Research for COVID Health study, the scalable tool, called “Freyja,” was able to detect Omicron in San Diego wastewater 11 days before it surfaced in clinical reports. Many public health labs and communities around the world have since adopted the algorithm.
Co-senior author Kristian Andersen, PhD, of Scripps, said in a Scripps press release that traditional clinical surveillance for new variants is slow and cost-prohibitive. “But with this new tool, you can take one wastewater sample and basically profile the whole city,” he said.
The team used 131 autosamplers to collect wastewater from 343 buildings at UCSD and 17 public schools in four San Diego school districts and obtained samples from wastewater treatment plants in the county. They analyzed more than 20,000 wastewater samples, developed better ways to concentrate viral RNA in wastewater, and quantified SARS-CoV-2 variants from sequencing data.
In a UCSD press release, co-senior author Rob Knight, PhD, said that the new method enables detection of new variants in time to take action.
“Before wastewater sequencing, the only way to do this was through clinical testing, which is not feasible at large scale, especially in areas with limited resources, public participation or the capacity to do sufficient testing and sequencing,” he said. “We’ve shown that wastewater sequencing can successfully track regional infection dynamics with fewer limitations and biases than clinical testing to the benefit of almost any community.”
Jul 7 Nature study
Jul 7 Scripps press release
Jul 7 UCSD press release