By RICHARD SKOLNIK
Status of the Pandemic and Vaccination Coverage, Hospitalization, and Deaths
The table below shows cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for the US, New Mexico, and Los Alamos County for the week ending February 28, 2022.
No COVID deaths among Los Alamos County residents were reported in the last two weeks. The New York Times shows a test positivity rate over the last 14 days of 18% for Los Alamos.
The graphic below (thanks to Eli Ben-Naim) shows the rolling 7-day average of cases in Los Alamos County over the last six months. The daily average number of new cases has fallen dramatically since its peak about a month ago. The “diagnoses index” shows that the average daily number of new infections on February 28, 2022 was higher than the number of new cases on 88% of all days since the pandemic began.
This graphic (also thanks to Eli Ben-Naim) shows the age distribution of new cases over the last two weeks.
The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) does not provide public information on vaccination, broken down by county, age, and booster status, despite this being needed to understand vaccination coverage gaps. About 55% of our pre-K to 6th graders and about 84% of our 7th to 12th graders have been fully vaccinated. NMDOH data suggest that 95% of our population 65 years of age and older have been fully vaccinated. (“Fully vaccinated” does not take account of booster doses for the eligible). CDC data indicate that 52% of all residents of Los Alamos County have received a booster. This suggests that we have a significant share of people eligible for boosting who have still not been boosted. This is despite the importance of a booster to reducing the risk of infection and, even more significantly, hospitalization and death, as shown below.
In New Mexico, for the period February 1, 2022 to February 21, 2022 those not fully vaccinated, compared to those fully vaccinated with a booster have:
- 4 times the risk of testing positive
- 11 times the risk of being hospitalized
- 14 times the risk of dying
COVID News of Importance
COVID News Around Los Alamos
The five member School Board of the Los Alamos Public Schools unanimously voted on February 18, 2022 to remove mandatory mask wearing in our schools. As of February 23, 2022, masks were made optional in facilities owned by Los Alamos County, with some exceptions, such as while riding Atomic City Transport.
CDC issued on February 25, 2022 a new tool to help communities adapt their prevention strategies to their level of risk. This framework is more relaxed than previous guidance. At this time, the tool shows Los Alamos County as being a “high risk” environment, in which masks should be worn indoors.
After a recent “write-in campaign” by concerned citizens, Los Alamos County has signed up to participate in an NMDOH wastewater monitoring program for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
COVID cases among children in the US have fallen from 1.15 million in the week ending
January 15, 2022 to about 127,000 the week ending February 24, 2022.
Since the start of the pandemic, infections with the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been reported in 347 children aged 0-9 and 471 adolescents aged 10-19 who are residents of Los Alamos County.
The proportion of reported sequences designated the BA.2 sublineage of Omicron has been increasing relative to the original Omicron variant, BA.1. However, the global circulation of all variants is declining. Initial data suggest that BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1. However, there is no evidence yet that it is causes more severe disease than BA.1.
A group at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, led by Dr. Peter Hotez, has developed, with philanthropic financing only, a protein-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, called CORBEVAX. They are licensing it patent free. It has already received emergency use authorization from the Drug Controller of India. CORBEVAX is intended to help fill the very large gaps in vaccination coverage in low- and middle-income countries.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 949,000 people have died in the US of COVID. CDC estimates that annual deaths from influenza ranged from about 12,000 to about 52,000 from 2010 to 2020. COVID was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020.
Editor’s Note: Richard Skolnik is the former regional director for health for South Asia at the World Bank. He was the director of an AIDS treatment program for Harvard and taught Global Health at the George Washington University and Yale. He is the author of Global Health 101, the instructor for Yale/Coursera’s Essentials of Global Health, and a Lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health. Skolnik has written this article in his personal capacity.