Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
After a trend of declining COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations, we saw an uptick earlier this week, particularly in hospitalizations. Harris County had been at “low risk” as defined by the CDC but has moved to “medium.” It is important to keep track of the county you live in and work in at CDC.gov. It the risk level increases, expect us to put some of our safety precautions back in place, such as masking. Right now, we are staying the same.
The virus continues to change. New variants continue to be reported and none of them have remained dominant for more than seven months. In this week’s video, I review a study that shows how long the variants were dominant in one area of the country. If this continues to play out, we are probably looking at a semiannual vaccine, rather than annual as we have with influenza.
An interesting New York Times article reported that despite strong levels of vaccination among older people, COVID killed them at vastly higher rates during this winter’s Omicron wave than it did last year. This is because of waning immunity when skipping a booster and the variant’s ability to skirt immune defenses. Among people 65 and older, 13 percent are unvaccinated, 3 percent have received only a single Moderna or Pfizer shot and 14 percent are vaccinated but not boosted.
Also in this week’s video is an update on vaccine news, as well as a look at H5N1, “Bird Flu.” A highly infectious and deadly strain of avian influenza virus has infected tens of millions of poultry across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. There is an unprecedented spread in wild birds. Outbreaks pose a significant risk to vulnerable species, are hard to contain and increase the opportunity for the virus to spill over into people. CDC considers the risk to be low for people, but we will keep an eye on it.
I hope you have a great weekend. Stay safe and see you next week!
Paul Klotman, M.D.
President & CEO