Health experts are warning of a possible “tripledemic” this winter, as COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., are now all circulating with flu cases showing up earlier than usual and in higher numbers than are typical for the time of year.
R.S.V. is hitting children especially hard and has started to put stress on hospital systems in states, including South Carolina, and Illinois, as the New York Times reported. The virus resembles the common cold, but can cause more severe symptoms in small children and babies as they have narrower airways that can become inflamed and blocked by mucus.
“We’re seeing a peak in cases right now,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, told CBS’ Face the Nation earlier this week. “Some people ascribe it to the fact that children have been somewhat removed from these circulating pathogens, so you don’t have as much immunity in the population generally. So it’s changed the typical cycle for this virus.”
Experts are keen to stress that the best defense against COVID and flu is a vaccine, which may not prevent infection, but will stop severe disease and death. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden got his updated COVID booster shot and urged Americans to roll up their sleeves ahead of the holiday season.
There are currently no vaccines against R.S.V., which causes about 14,000 deaths among adults aged 65 and older and up to 300 deaths of children under the age of five each year, according to the Times.
U.S., known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since mid-April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people overall are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.
The daily average for new cases stood at 37,792 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 4% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 1% at 26,681, while the daily average for deaths is down 7% to 357.
However, the pace of improvement for both cases and hospitalizations has slowed in recent weeks and there are concerns that winter will bring a fresh wave of cases.
There was good news for people who are afraid of needles on Wednesday, when Shanghai started to administer an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine in what appears to be a world first, the Associated Press reported.
The vaccine, a mist that is sucked in through the mouth, is being offered for free as a booster dose for previously vaccinated individuals, according to an announcement posted on an official city social-media account.
Needle-free vaccines may persuade people who don’t like getting a shot to get vaccinated, as well as help expand vaccination in poor countries because they are easier to administer.
China wants more people to get booster shots before it relaxes strict pandemic restrictions that are holding back the economy and are increasingly out of sync with the rest of the world. As of mid-October, 90% of Chinese were fully vaccinated and 57% had received a booster shot.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• Dr. David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special envoy on COVID, told Sky News that people should still wear face masks and social distance “to protect others,” as COVID cases rise again. “If you’re going into a place where there are a lot of people up close together, all the evidence is that that’s where your risks are greatest,” Nabarro told the TV network. Having COVID multiple times does not build up resistance or immunity because the virus is always changing, he added, and reinfection raises the chance of being “unlucky” and getting long COVID, where symptoms, some debilitating, can linger for months.
• A New York state judge has ruled in favor of sanitation workers, who were fired for not getting vaccinated against COVID, the AP reported. Workers should be reinstated and given back pay, according to Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio, sitting in Staten Island. Porzio held that the city’s health commissioner overstepped his authority and violated the workers’ due process and equal protection rights when he barred the workers from their jobs. Porzio also cited Mayor Eric Adams’s lifting of the vaccine mandate for some private employees earlier this year — notably, athletes and entertainers — as evidence that the public worker mandate was arbitrary and unreasonable.
• Anglo-French biotech Novacyt SA
said its Winterplex combined assay test has been approved for use in the U.K. under the country’s coronavirus test approvals’ regulations, Dow Jones Newswires reported. The company said that the Real-Time PCR SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex 3G assay panel is the sixth of its PCR tests to be added to the U.K.’s CTDA register of approved coronavirus diagnostic products. The Winterplex assay can detect influenza A, influenza B, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, and SARS-CoV-2, or COVID.
• A 44-year-old California man has pleaded guilty to charges that he fraudulently tried to obtain more than $3.5 million in pandemic funds and bought a Rolls-Royce with some of the proceeds he did receive, the U.S. attorney’s office in New Hampshire said, according to the AP. Prosecutor say the man and his partner agreed to fraudulently apply for CARES ACT funds under the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs, which had been authorized by Congress to help millions of Americans and many small businesses hurt during the early stages of the pandemic.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 628.6 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.58 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 97.3 million cases and 1,068,433 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 226.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.2% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots. Just 111.4 million have had a booster, equal to 49.1% of the vaccinated population, and 26.8 million of those who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 40.6% of those who received a first booster.
So far, just 19.4 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants that have been dominant in the U.S. and around the world for months.