America is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Depending on the trackers that you use, there are around 94,000 to 100,000 known daily infections. Complementing this are hospitalization rates that are lower than the peaks of April, but still steadily trending upwards. As concerning as these numbers already are, the situation may be more serious than it already looks.
Per Dennis Nash, the professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York Public Health, COVID case counts may be inaccurate by a factor as large as 30. It is very likely that as much as one in five adults–roughly 22% or 1.5 million– have contracted COVID between April and May. There is a significant chance that reports nationwide have been just as inaccurate, as well.
What is the reason behind this dramatic discrepancy? Experts have partially attributed things to the rise of home testing. Patients can see whether or not they have COVID-19 and self-quarantine, instead of going to a hospital and thus being included in official case counts. On top of this, there has been a widespread ‘fatigue’ with COVID and the pandemic. According to a poll from Axios/Ipsos, one in three Americans believe that we have moved past COVID-19. Many Americans are ready to leave the masks at home and “go back to normal.” They want to walk to work or school without any concerns or anxieties regarding infection.
It is true that we are better equipped to handle COVID cases than we were at the start of the pandemic. The vaccines have been proven to reduce the rates of hospitalization and death among even people with prior infections. That being said, there are still certain risks that need to be considered. It is still somewhat random as to whether or not you are affected by long-term COVID symptoms, even with the vaccine. There are also immunocompromised individuals who are still susceptible to deadly COVID episodes. Not helping matters is The rise of newer, more infectious strains like BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2. At the time of writing, these strains make up 8.3%, 13.3% and 14.2% of all US cases. There is a possibility that BA.4 and BA.5 will become the most prominent variants, though they at least lack the respiratory-related symptoms that have made COVID-19 so deadly.
Profession Dennis Nash posits that more accurate COVID information figures would help people make “informed decisions” as to the kinds of precautionary measures they should take. It is on local and public state and national figures to present these more representative numbers. Leaving the public in the dark might engender a greater sense of security, but the consequences could prove to be damaging in the long run.