Previous studies have shown that levels of neuroticism declined during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A new study published in PLOS One found that these changes in neuroticism were short-lived and normalized later in the pandemic in 2021-2022.
However, other personality traits such as agreeableness, openness, extraversion, and conscientiousness declined during the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-2022.
The study found that younger individuals were especially susceptible to changes in personality traits during the pandemic, suggesting a disruption of the personality development and maturation process that normally occurs during young adulthood.
Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Brent Roberts, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“It is quite significant from a theoretical perspective to know that global events, like the pandemic, might have the effect of changing personality, which is often thought to be fixed and impervious to change,” Dr. Roberts said.
“It is also of potential pragmatic value, as from an epidemiological standpoint, the changes over the long run, being somewhat negative and centered on young adults would mean that these cohorts would be more vulnerable to problematic mental and physical health outcomes due solely to psychological and not physiological reasons,” he explained.
The five-factor model of personality is a widely used model that describes personality based on the presence of five broad traits. The model includes the following five personality traits:
These personality traits remain relatively stable over an adult’s lifetime and are generally unaffected by personal experience. Previous studies have shown that individuals show a small change in personality traits with age. Specifically, conscientiousness and agreeableness tend to increase gradually with age, whereas neuroticism, openness, and extraversion tend to decrease.
Although regarded as generally stable, personal stressful or traumatic events can influence these personality traits. In contrast, studies examining the impact of collective stressful events, such as the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand or Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, have shown a lack of change in personality traits in response to these events.
The COVID-19 pandemic differs from other natural disasters in its global impact and influence on all aspects of life. Previous studies have shown a decline in neuroticism during the early or acute stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that many individuals with generally higher anxiety levels — associated with neuroticism — experienced lower anxiety levels during the pandemic’s early phase.
However, there is limited and contradictory evidence on the impact of the pandemic on other personality traits. In addition, there is limited data on the pandemic’s impact on personality traits beyond 2020.
The present study used data from the Understanding America Study (UAS) to examine the impact of the early and subsequent stages of the COVID-19 pandemic on personality traits in a large and diverse population. The UAS consists of an internet panel of about 9,500 individuals representing the national population. The UAS has administered multiple personality assessments over the internet to enrolled participants since its inception in 2014.
In the current study, the researchers categorized the period encompassing the pandemic into the acute phase spanning the period between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, and the adaptation phase spanning the period between January 1, 2021, and February 16, 2022. The study included 7,109 participants in the UAS who had completed at least one personality assessment before the pandemic and another assessment during either the acute or adaptation phase of the pandemic.
In comparison with pre-pandemic levels, the researchers found that neuroticism decreased during the acute phase of the pandemic in 2020. This decline in neuroticism levels was, however, not sustained during the subsequent adaptation phase in 2021-2022, with levels of neuroticism in the adaptation phase being similar to those observed before the pandemic.
The other four personality traits showed an opposite trend to that observed with neuroticism. The levels of conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, and extraversion during the acute phase of the pandemic did not differ from their levels before the pandemic. In contrast, the levels of all four traits decreased during 2021-2022 compared with their pre-pandemic levels.
Notably, the changes in the expression of these personality traits were similar to those normally observed during a decade of adulthood. The researchers noted that further research is needed to determine whether the changes in personality traits observed in 2021-2022 were enduring and to evaluate potential longer-term outcomes.
The researchers further analyzed the data to examine the changes in personality traits among different age and ethnic/racial groups.
The researchers found the highest levels of decline in neuroticism during 2020 in participants ages 65 years and over, followed by middle-aged individuals (30-64 years). However, the decline in neuroticism in younger participants ages under 30 years did not reach significance during the acute phase.
Interestingly, younger adults showed higher levels of neuroticism in 2021-2022 than before the pandemic. Although the levels of the four remaining personality traits were lower in 2021-2022 among younger and middle-aged participants, the decline in agreeableness and conscientiousness was more profound among younger participants. In contrast, the levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness among older individuals in 2021-2022 were similar to pre-pandemic levels.
These data suggest that younger adults were more sensitive to changes in personality traits than their middle-aged and older counterparts. The personality of older individuals, on the other hand, seemed more resilient to the effects of the pandemic.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Angelina Sutin, a professor at the Florida State University, noted:
“The traits that showed the most change in younger adulthood – neuroticism and conscientiousness – are also the traits that are associated with many important outcomes, including educational and career success, relationships, and mental and physical health. The changes were relatively small, but the cumulative impact could be significant if the changes persist.”
Personality traits tend to consolidate during young adulthood as an individual’s personality develops and matures. This could potentially explain why younger adults were more vulnerable to changes in personality traits in response to the pandemic. An alternative reason for these findings could be that the sources of stress (such as job- or school-related stress) associated with the pandemic might have been different for each age group.
Among ethnic/racial groups, the impact of the pandemic on the personality traits of Hispanic/ Latino participants deviated from that observed in non-Hispanic/Latino participants. For instance, Hispanic/Latino participants showed a larger decrease in extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness than their non-Hispanic/Latino counterparts in 2021-2022. The researchers speculate that Hispanic/Latino participants may have experienced greater stress levels due to working outside the home and being at increased risk of COVID-19.
The study’s authors cautioned that the study had a few limitations. They pointed out that the number of participants from minoritized ethnic/groups was relatively small, which could have hindered the identification of changes in personality traits in these groups.
“The participants were all living in the United States, so it is unknown whether the patterns we found using this sample would generalize to people living in other countries,” Dr. Sutin said, “In addition, we could only demonstrate change, not the reasons for the change. We also could not tell whether the changes are temporary or going to be lasting. More assessments of personality are needed to answer that question.”
Dr. Roberts also noted, “It is an observational study with no control group, so we can’t infer from this study that the pandemic caused these changes. Moreover, the authors did not examine potential alternative explanations for these changes during this time window. The pandemic, while unique and pervasive, was not the only change occurring in the US during this time window. There were upheavals on the social, political, and economic fronts that could also have affected personality development during this time, especially in the young adults who appeared to change the most.”
“Finally, the authors did not directly test whether the experience of COVID-19 itself could explain the results. Given the possibility that many of the participants suffered not only from COVID-19 but from long Covid, it would be prudent to test whether that experience itself could explain the results,” he added.





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At least 7.6 million people have received an updated Covid booster since the start of September, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number represents around 3.6% of people currently eligible to receive the shots in the U.S.
The data does not include people who received updated Pfizer-BioNTech boosters in Idaho and Texas, the CDC said, so it is likely an underestimate.
The CDC signed off on updated versions of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s booster shots on Sept. 1, and pharmacies and other vaccination sites began administering the new shots around Labor Day weekend. The bivalent shots target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Dr. Scott Roberts, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, said the relatively low booster uptake was “demoralizing.”
“I would expect a much higher proportion of Americans to have gotten the booster by this point,” he said.
Roberts said a lack of public awareness about the shots or the prevailing narrative that the pandemic is ending might have hindered the vaccine rollout.
“The fact that this booster came out days before Biden said the pandemic is over is a huge mixed message,” he said. “Now it’s going to be that much harder to convince those at risk who are on the fence to get a booster.”
Still, the U.S. has seen an uptick in demand for Covid shots since the booster rollout began: The U.S. is currently administering around 356,000 Covid vaccine doses per day, as a weekly average. That’s more than triple the number from the start of the month.
As of last week, the U.S. had shipped more than 25 million bivalent booster doses to tens of thousands of sites. The vast majority of the population now lives within 5 miles of a site offering the updated vaccines.
The CDC recommends that everyone over 12 get an updated booster, as long as at least two months have passed since their last Covid shot. People who recently got Covid should wait at least until their acute illness is over, and the CDC says they can consider delaying their boosters until three months after their symptoms started or since they first tested positive.
People can mix and match vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but Pfizer’s updated booster is available to people ages 12 and up while Moderna’s is limited to ages 18 and up.
Some pharmacies reported shortages of Moderna’s updated booster earlier this month. But CVS said on Friday that it had started to receive additional Moderna doses and expects more over the coming days and weeks. Walgreens said the availability of Moderna doses varies by location.
Nearly 80% of the U.S. population has received at least one shot of a primary Covid vaccine, and nearly 68% is considered fully vaccinated by the CDC, meaning they’ve gotten either one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two shots of Pfizer’s, Moderna’s or Novavax’s, which was authorized in July.
Biden administration officials have pointed to the updated boosters, however, as a critical step to pushing the U.S. out of the pandemic.
“For the first time since December of 2020, these vaccines, our vaccines, have caught up with the virus,” White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said at a briefing earlier this month.
Jha said the shots should provide better protection against infection and transmission, as well as more lasting protection against severe illness, compared to earlier Covid vaccines.
But experts are still gathering real-world data, since the shots were distributed without results from human trials. Laboratory studies found that the boosters generated strong antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5, and human trial data showed that a similar vaccine yielded a strong antibody response against the initial omicron strain, BA.1.
Authorization of the bivalent boosters for children ages 5 to 11 may be just weeks away, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at an event this week with the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.
Public health officials expect to see another Covid wave around Thanksgiving, and flu season tends to pick up in October, so the CDC says the updated Covid boosters and flu shots can be given together.
If the pace of booster vaccinations doesn’t pick up, Roberts said, the U.S. could see an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“Many people are certainly due for a booster and this comes at a critical time,” he said. “We’re going into the winter season when we expect cases to go up. Many areas around the country right now are continuing to have high levels of circulating virus.”
Aria Bendix is the breaking health reporter for NBC News Digital.
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Gemah Ripah Sumberahayu

Sep 30, 2022 10:00 AM
Author: University of Utah Health Communications
Información en español
Being able to taste and smell are essential parts of enjoying everyday life. But for some COVID-19 long haulers, these senses can become extremely unpleasant. Some people experience a change to their taste and smell following COVID-19 infection, also known as parosmia (abnormal sense of smell), hyposmia (decreased sense of smell), and anosmia (loss of sense of smell). The good news is it’s usually only temporary—in most cases. However, no matter how long these conditions last, it can be very disruptive.
Kristine Smith, MD, a rhinologist and assistant professor in the Division of Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery) at University of Utah Health, answers eight questions about parosmia.
While it’s not known exactly what triggers parosmia, smell disruption can be caused by viral illnesses such as the common cold or influenza.  Head trauma, medications, and neurologic diseases such as Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases can also cause parosmia. During a viral illness, the nerve receptors in your nose can be damaged and change your perception of smell. It’s believed this same phenomenon occurs during COVID-19 infection.
A loss of taste and smell is a common symptom of COVID-19 infection. In the recovery phase of COVID-19, a patient normally regains their senses back. However, some people experience a change to their sense of smell about three to four months following infection. People report certain things—like food or body odor—smelling like garbage, rotten eggs, or chemicals. This altered sense of smell is called parosmia.
The number of patients who experience a loss of smell and taste during or after COVID-19 infection ranged widely. The loss or change of taste and smell during COVID-19 infection impacts about 50-75 percent of people. About 25-75 percent go on to develop parosmia in the recovery phase of COVID-19.
Patients usually improve slowly with time. About 65 percent of people with COVID-19-induced parosmia or hyposmia regain these senses by about 18 months, while 80-90 percent regain these senses by two years.
If you lose your sense of smell or have a reduction in your sense of smell while you have COVID-19, you are more likely to develop a disturbance in your sense of smell later. But you can still experience parosmia even if you didn’t originally have smell loss. Patients who are younger and female also seem to have a higher incidence of experiencing post-COVID-19 smell disruption. It’s unclear why these groups are more impacted.
The number of people reporting parosmia seems to be changing with COVID-19 variants over time. More cases of parosmia were reported at the beginning of the pandemic with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. While patients are still experiencing parosmia, the number of patients seeking help with their symptoms is less with the newer variants.
There are no guaranteed treatments for post-COVID-19 parosmia. However, some therapies may help some patients. These include:
Other therapies like stellate ganglion blocks, alpha-lipoic acid, and plasma-rich plasma (PRP) injection are being investigated as potential treatments for COVID-induced parosmia. The risks or potential benefits are not yet known.
Home or natural therapies are becoming increasingly common, but DO NOT try these without talking to your doctor first. What you put in your nose could be absorbed in your bloodstream, which could potentially be dangerous to your health.
Losing your sense of smell or having a change in your sense of smell is not going to directly cause you harm, but it can increase your risk of some potentially harmful things.
Food poisoning
When your sense of smell comes back wrong or is decreased long-term, it can put you at risk of experiencing food poisoning because you may not be able to tell when something in your fridge has gone bad. People with parosmia should pay attention to expiration dates and labeling leftovers.
Smoke or natural gas
A person with parosmia may not be able to detect smoke or natural gas in their home. It’s important to ensure you have up-to-date smoke and natural gas detectors in your home. If you have a natural gas stove, you may want to consider getting a handheld natural gas detector.
Mental health
The ability to smell and enjoy food is really important to our well-being. These types of alterations can significantly impact someone’s quality of life. Having persistent parosmia can potentially increase the risk for anxiety and depression. It’s important to seek help to treat those associated issues.
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Australia has said it will end mandatory Covid isolation requirements from next month.
Currently anyone who tests positive to the virus must isolate for five days, but that will end from 14 October.
At times nicknamed "Fortress Australia", the country has had some of the strictest restrictions in the world since the pandemic began.
Australia's chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said the "emergency phase" of its response was probably over.
But Prof Kelly said the decision "does not in any way suggest that the pandemic is finished".
Mandatory isolation had been one of the few restrictions remaining.
Australia continues to record about 5,500 virus cases each day, official figures show. It is one of the world's most vaccinated countries.
Prof Kelly said the country would see "future peaks" of the virus, but it currently had "very low" numbers of hospital admissions and aged-care outbreaks.
The Australian Medical Association opposes the change, saying those who pushed for it are not "scientifically literate" and are putting lives at risk.
About 15,000 people have died with the virus in Australia – fewer than many nations. The vast majority have happened this year after the country opened up.
Australia had closed international borders for around two years and imposed strict limits on movement around the country.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said most existing governments payments for people who have to miss work because of Covid would also be scrapped.
"It was always envisaged that these measures were emergency measures," he said.
Casual workers and those in high-risk areas like aged care or health will still be able to get financial support.
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Gemah Ripah Sumberahayu

Update for Sept. 30, 2022 includes: Over Age 50? Get Boosted and Get Treated; Flu Season is Here: Fight the Flu; Upcoming COVID-19 Forums for Schools, Seniors; Know your COVID-19 Community Level; and updated local COVID-19 data… Read More
Update for Sept. 30, 2022 includes: Over Age 50? Get Boosted and Get Treated; Flu Season is Here: Fight the Flu; Upcoming COVID-19 Forums for Schools, Seniors; Know your COVID-19 Community Level; and updated local COVID-19 data.
Para leer esta página en español, desplácese hacia arriba y haga clic en el enlace que dice “Translate” (Traducir) y elija “Spanish” (español).
The Marin County COVID-19 Status Update is published weekly and as needed to share important news and resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. We remain here for you.
 
Many of us over age 50 do not see ourselves as being at high risk, which may lead us to forego booster doses or treatment when infected. Marin’s data are clear that COVID-19 outcomes are most severe in those over age 50, even in  those who may be otherwise healthy.
We have two messages for every resident over age 50:
It’s time to get your updated booster dose. Fall and winter bring new risks for infection, and the new booster protects you against the Omicron variants that will be circulating over the coming months. To schedule an appointment for a free booster, visit our Vaccine Finder webpage.
If you get COVID, get treated. Treatment with a week of pills is highly effective at preventing bad outcomes, and is free and available through your doctor. Learn more about COVID-19 Treatments.
 
October is typically the start of flu season in Marin. Marin County Public Health has reported that flu has begun to circulate locally, which signals the start of flu season. Now is the time to get the protection of the vaccine.
The flu is a contagious disease that can cause serious illness. Getting vaccinated against the flu is the best way to keep yourself and your family healthy and out of the hospital. CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older.
Keep in mind, most Marin vaccine providers are offering both flu shots and the new COVID-19 boosters at the same time.
The general public can find flu shots at most pharmacies around Marin County.  Use MCPH’s Vaccine Finder tool or CDC’s Vaccine Finder tool to find your nearest flu shot.
Kaiser Permanente members can access FREE walk-in (no appointment necessary) flu shots at three North Bay locations:
 
This next week, Marin County Public Health will be participating in two public online forums to provide COVID-19 updates to our school and older adult communities.
Monday, October 3 at 4:00pm – Drs Santora and Willis will provide a Public Health Update for the School Community. The update will be held via online (zoom link; Webinar ID: 838 4448 1710; Passcode: 722670; Dial In: 408-638-0968). Questions can be submitted in advance to RapidResponse@marinschools.org.
Wednesday, October 6 at 10:00am – Dr. Matt Willis will present “Building a Healthier Marin: COVID and Beyond,” hosted by the Marin County Commission on Aging.  He will discuss health equity in Marin, review potential scenarios for the pandemic future locally, and offer specific actions that can be taken by older adults to reduce risk. (The forum will be held online (zoom link; webinar ID: 838 2029 1566; Passcode: 662153; Call-in: (669) 219-2599)
 
The CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels are a tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. Take precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 based on the COVID-19 Community Level in Marin or other community in which you live, work or visit.
Location
Todays’ COVID-19 Community Level:
Suggested Prevention Steps:
Marin County
LOW
People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
 
 
Below is just a snapshot of local COVID-19 data. Find a more in-depth analysis of COVID-19 trends on the Marin Data & Surveillance webpage, our Data FAQ, or Marin County’s Open Data Portal.
Data sets updated weekly (published on Fridays) include:
Status updates are now published weekly on Fridays. “Change from Last Status Update” accounts for 7 days of data, unless noted otherwise (view past status updates).
COVID-19 Case Data
Today’s Report
Change from Last Status Update on Sept. 23, 2022
Total Confirmed Cumulative Cases
41,578
+ 162
“Active Cases” (Confirmed in Past 10 Days)
187
+ 31
Total Cumulative Deaths
266
+ 0
Current COVID-19 Hospitalizations
7
+ 1
Current COVID-19 ICU Patient Census
1
+ 1
 
COVID-19 Vaccination Data
Today’s Report
Change from Last Week
Percent of Marin residents vaccinated with at least one dose
98.0%** 
N/A**
Percent of Marin population who have completed vaccine series.
92.1%*
+ 0.1%
Percent of Marin residents who have received a Booster/3rd Dose
66.8%*
+ 0.4%
* Note that this percentage is out of all Marin residents including children younger than 6 months.
** As DOF population estimates may not be precise, the proportion of vaccinated people in any group will be displayed up to, but not higher than 98%.
Residential Care & Skilled Nursing Facility COVID-19 data:
Today’s Report
Change from Last Week
Positive Patients at Facilities cumulative
2,216
+ 1
Positive Patients at Facilities current
16
– 13
Positive Staff at Facilities current
14
 – 7
Facility Patient Deaths
169
+ 0
Facility Patient Deaths as percentage of all COVID+ deaths
63.5%
 + 0.0%
 
State COVID-19 data:
Today’s Report
Change from Last Week
California Confirmed Cases
10,412,352
+ 27,679
California Deaths
95,165
+ 156
 
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Author/Editor:
Era Dabla-Norris ; Anh Thi Ngoc Nguyen ; Yuanyan S Zhang ; Thuy Dinh Pham ; Nga Huong Phi ; Duong Thuy Nguyen ; Tuan Danh Duong
Publication Date:
September 30, 2022
Electronic Access:
Free Download. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file
Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.
Summary:
Using a unique representative panel survey of Vietnamese enterprises in 2020, we find that the pandemic and associated government support package had a heterogenous impact across firms. The government support package, particularly tax cuts and deferrals, helped alleviate short term stress, but tight ineligibility criteria and cumbersome procedures impacted take-up. Econometric analysis suggests that the likelihood of accessing support was associated with firm size, with larger firms more likely to receive support compared to smaller firms, even after controlling for sector, firm ownership and financial health. Credit support was effective in alleviating liquidity constraints and allaying firm pessimism only for large firms. Interestingly, firms experiencing sales losses and those with lower pre-crisis productivity were more likely to resort to digitalization, suggesting that the pandemic could help narrow productivity gaps.
Series:
Working Paper No. 2022/201
Frequency:
regular
Publication Date:
September 30, 2022
ISBN/ISSN:
9798400222375/1018-5941
Stock No:
WPIEA2022201
Pages:
30
Please address any questions about this title to publications@imf.org
© 2022 International Monetary Fund. All rights reserved.

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Gemah Ripah Sumberahayu

Is the coronavirus on its way out?
You might think so. New, updated booster shots are being rolled out to better protect against the variants circulating now. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped COVID-19 quarantine and distancing recommendations. And more people have thrown off their masks and returned to pre-pandemic activities.
But scientists say the answer is no. They predict the scourge that’s already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future.
One reason is that the coronavirus has gotten better and better at getting around immunity from vaccination and past infection.

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Scientists point to emerging research that suggests the latest Omicron variant gaining ground in the U.S. — BA.4.6, which was responsible for around 8% of new U.S. infections last week — appears to be even better at evading the immune system than the dominant BA.5.
Scientists worry the virus may well keep evolving in worrisome ways.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said COVID-19 will likely be with us for the rest of our lives.
Experts expect COVID-19 will someday become endemic, meaning it will occur regularly in certain areas according to established patterns. But they don’t think that will be very soon.
Science & Medicine
COVID-19 will never go away, but the pandemic will be over when the disease becomes ‘endemic.’ Here’s what that means.

Still, living with COVID-19 “should not necessarily be a scary or bad concept,” since people are getting better at fighting it, Jha said during a recent question-and-answer session with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “Obviously if we take our foot off the gas — if we stop updating our vaccines, we stop getting new treatments — then we could slip backwards.”
Experts say COVID will keep causing serious illness in some people. The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub made some pandemic projections spanning August 2022 to May 2023, assuming the new boosters that target the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of Omicron would be available and a booster campaign would take place in fall and winter. In the most pessimistic scenario — a new variant and late boosters — they projected 1.3 million hospitalizations and 181,000 deaths during that period. In the most optimistic scenario — no new variant and early boosters — they projected a little more than half the number of hospitalizations and 111,000 deaths.
Dr. Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the world is likely to keep seeing repetitive surges until “we do the things we have to do,” such as developing next-generation vaccines and rolling them out equitably.

Topol said the virus “just has too many ways to work around our current strategies, and it’ll just keep finding people, finding them again, and self-perpetuating.”
Scientists expect more genetic changes that affect parts of the spike protein studding the surface of the virus, letting it attach to human cells.
“Every time we think we’ve seen the peak transmission, peak immune escape properties, the virus exceeds that by another significant notch,” Topol said.

But the virus probably won’t keep getting more transmissible forever.
“I think there is a limit,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “What we’re really dealing with, though, is there’s still a lot of people across the world who don’t have any prior immunity — either they haven’t been infected or they haven’t had access to vaccination.”
If humanity’s baseline level of immunity rises significantly, he said, the rate of infections — and with that emergence of more contagious variants — should slow down.

Science & Medicine
With the fast-spreading but less virulent Omicron variant, the coronavirus may finally be cutting humanity a little slack.

But there is a chance the virus could mutate in a way that causes more severe illness.
“There’s not any inherent reason, biologically, that the virus has to become milder over time,” said Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist. The fact it may seem milder now “is likely just the combined effect of all of us having some immune history with the virus.”

While scientists hope that continues, they also point out that immunity gradually wanes.
Omicron has been around since late last year, with a series of highly transmissible versions quickly displacing one another, and Binnicker believes “that will continue at least for the next few months.”
But down the road, he said it’s likely a new variant distinct from Omicron will pop up.

The recent wave of infections and re-infections, he said, “gives the virus more chances to spread and mutate and new variants to emerge.”
Science & Medicine
Conventional wisdom says Omicron is less likely to cause serious illness, but that might be due to better immunity and treatments, not the virus itself.

Yes, experts said. One way is to get vaccinated and boosted.
“We have a virus out there that’s still circulating, still killing hundreds of Americans every day,” Jha said in a press briefing Tuesday. But, he added: “We now have all of the capability to prevent, I believe, essentially all of those deaths. If people stay up to date on their vaccines, if people get treated if they have a breakthrough infection, we can make deaths from this virus vanishingly rare.”
Not only does vaccination protect against severe disease and death, it raises the level of immunity globally.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said Tuesday that up to 100,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths could be prevented if Americans get the updated booster at the same rate they typically get an annual flu shot this fall. About half of Americans are typically vaccinated against the flu each year.
People can also keep protecting themselves by taking other precautions like, for example, wearing masks indoors when COVID-19 rates are high.
Longtime nurse Catherine Mirabile said it’s important not to dismiss the dangers of the coronavirus — which sickened her twice, nearly killed her husband and left them both with long COVID. Daily deaths still average around 450 in the U.S.

“People really need to look at this and still take this seriously,” said the 62-year-old from Princeton, W.Va., who is now on disability. “They could end up in the same shape we’re in.”
AP reporters Zeke Miller and Amanda Seitz contributed from Washington.
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Gemah Ripah Sumberahayu