According to a new CDC study, at least three out of every five Americans have antibodies that indicate a previous infection with COVID-19. Only around a third of people in the United States had a past disease before the omicron-fueled spike in infections from December 2021 to February 2022.
On a press call this afternoon, Dr. Kristie Clarke, co-lead for the CDC’s COVID-19 Epidemiology & Surveillance Taskforce Seroprevalence Team, said, “This is the first time that population seroprevalence is over 50%.”
Clarke said she expected a post-omicron increase in seroprevalence (antibodies that indicate past COVID-19 infection), but not by this much.
As of February, 58 percent of persons of all ages had detectable antibodies, but that number climbed to over 75 percent among children and teenagers under 17.
“In January, we had 43 percent, and I expected it to rise. I didn’t expect it to increase as much as it did, but we follow the data and look at the data, and this is what the evidence shows us, which is why we want to get this message out to the American people as quickly as possible “Clarke remarked.
Part of the reason why the CDC went through with its recent decision to utilize new metrics for masking and community alerts, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, is the increase in antibody protection, both from infection and from vaccines and boosters.
“We feel there is a lot of protection in the community,” she said, referring to vaccination, boosting, and prior infection.
However, both Walensky and Clarke underlined the importance of vaccination. There is very little evidence on how long COVID immunity lasts, but there is more data on how long vaccine and booster immunity lasts.
“I can’t emphasize enough what Dr. Clark mentioned, which is that we continue to encourage folks who have detectable antibodies from prior illness to get vaccinated,” Walensky said.
“We don’t know when that infection occurred, and we don’t know if that protection has worn off. We don’t know nearly as much about that level of protection as we do about vaccine and booster protection, “According to Walensky.
According to Clarke, these findings cannot indicate that 60% of Americans are immune to reinfection.
“Reinfection and infection after immunization are both possible,” Clarke explained.
She clarified that the proportion does not imply that we have achieved herd immunity.
“There is no known population barrier above which community transmission of COVID is stopped once the population reaches a certain proportion. So, all of that is crucial to understand, “Clarke remarked.
Despite this, the BA.2 variety has yet to cause a significant increase in severe disease or death, according to Walensky. Still, the CDC has now classified a few counties in the Northeast as medium or high risk, and masking inside is suggested.
“There are some parts of the country, particularly in the Northeast, where we see an increase in cases and hospitalizations. We’re keeping a close eye on this, you know, “According to Walensky.
“We haven’t seen them tick up as much as we may have expected in previous times during this epidemic,” she said, “due, I believe, to a great amount of community protection both from sickness and infection, as Dr. Clark has highlighted, as well as vaccination protection.”
SHE SAID THAT the CDC is also tracking hospital stays, which have not been as severe as in the past.
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“We’re using less oxygen and spending less time in the ICU. We haven’t noticed an increase in deaths due to these, thankfully. So we’re hoping that positive trends will continue and that, as a result of the rising number of cases, disease severity will not worsen, “According to Walensky.