Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
In this week’s video, let’s start with the worldwide COVID-19 numbers. The problem areas are China, Russia, parts of Europe and Chile. Hong Kong on Monday reported 26,908 news cases and 248 deaths in a 24-hour period. Much of the current global outbreak is being driven by the “stealth Omicron” variant, or the B.A.2 lineage of the Omicron variant.
There are some hotspots in the United States, but the differences in the maps from Jan. 28 to March 14 is significant. Locally, Harris County has a “low” community level, which is the reason why mask mandates are relaxing in most places. We are hopeful with higher vaccination rates and the number of people who have already been infected with COVID, the stealth Omicron variant will not cause as much of a problem here as it has in other places.
In science news, a treatment trial found that an arthritis drug reduces mortality in severe COVID-19. Long COVID continues to cause a number of problems. This refers to ongoing health problems for four or more weeks following initial SARS CoV-2 infection. From 31 percent to 60 percent of COVID-19 patients suffer from some form of long COVID. Fully vaccinated participants in the study were about half as likely to have symptoms lasting 28 days.
While we are experiencing a lull in COVID cases, we should remember, based on what is happening in China and Europe, that a lull is not the end of the pandemic. And we might see a spike again this summer, unfortunately.
One thing we have learned is that kids need to be in school and I review two papers that show the effectiveness of masks in preventing infection in school settings.
We celebrated two holidays yesterday – The Festival of Purim commemorating the saving of the Jewish people from destruction by the leader of the Persian Empire known as Haman and St. Patrick’s Day celebrating the patron saint of Ireland. For Lily, it was a choice of green beer or the pastry Hamantaschen. You can see how she celebrated at the end of the video.
Have a great weekend. Stay safe.
Paul Klotman, M.D.
President & CEO