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COVID-19 Update: 2nd Wave’s Here

Covid Chart 11.4.20.jpg

By Vince Conti

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – There appears to be general agreement that a second wave of the pandemic arrived. Case counts across the nation are at levels that surpass those from April and May.
New outbreaks are yielding restrictions in Europe. Cases in the U.S. are approaching 100,000 per day, with a 44% increase in the last 14 days. The total case count hit 9.3 million.
New Jersey saw over 11,000 cases this week, with rising hospitalizations. Even with that seven-day total, the state ranks 18th on the list of states regarding size of the weekly COVID-19 case count.
Cape May County is also seeing a surge in cases. The weekly total of positive tests among county residents was 133, the highest seven-day resident total since the county’s first case March 18. Add confirmed cases among non-residents, and the seven-day total rises to 154.
With cases spiking everywhere, epidemiologists are stymied as they try to discover the causes. The spread is no longer easily tied to crowded bars or teenage house parties. The virus is sufficiently widespread that tracking infection points is harder.
Infectious disease specialists point to the virus, explaining that it spreads easier in indoor environments with poor ventilation. They also say that the biggest factor in the growing spread is probably personal behavior. 
Individuals, lulled by lower summer counts, have begun acting in ways that favor spread, especially in smaller indoor gatherings.
With a positivity rate, a rate of positive test results per total test results, at 5.29% and a rate of transmission at 1.28, health metrics do not signal any imminent drop in rising cases.
Cape May County can take some solace in the fact that the county’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are low, with Cape Regional Medical Center (CRMC) reporting three patients, one of whom is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), as of Oct. 29. 
Hospitalizations statewidehave been increasing rapidly, remaining above 1,000 per day most of this week.
The county avoided significant hospitalizations, even when numbers spiked in July, largely because those infected were disproportionately young, where the risk of severe complications is lower. 
County health officials are reporting that the age distribution of the new cases is no longer clustered in young people, raising the risk that hospitalizations in the county could grow.
Rising hospitalizations and the appearance of severe complications from the disease tend to lag a rise in confirmed cases by one to two weeks.
So far, this surge in cases nationwide has not brought with it a mortality rate similar to that in the first wave. However, scientists continue to point to growing evidence of long-term effects on COVID-19 infections, even in what at first appeared to be moderate cases. 
Individuals experiencing these prolonged bouts with the disease have come to be called “long-haulers.” Many of them have even formed Facebook groups.
The growing evidence of long-haul symptoms suggests that individuals should no longer measure their behavior in terms of calculated mortality risks. 
Many of those experiencing a negative impact from a COVID-19 infection over the long term are not in the age groups most at risk of death from the disease.
The American Medical Association estimates that around 10% of COVID-19 patients become long-haulers. Symptoms include ongoing fatigue, chills, body aches, brain fog, and gastrointestinal issues. Many also have impaired lung function and shortness of breath.
The message from health officials is that personal behavior is the key factor in tamping down the upsurge in cases inthe absence of a vaccine. 
They urge a renewed commitment to health protocols, including facial coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene, avoidance of social gatherings, and, given fall’s arrival, getting a flu shot.
A statement from CRMC points to these health protocols as the “five proactive ways to stay healthy and reduce the spread of respiratory illness – including COVID-19.”
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com

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