Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
It is great to be back in the office, although a week of vacation was very nice. I returned to a lot of questions on the status of COVID in the Houston community, concerns about monkeypox and some interesting journal articles on the origin of the coronavirus. I spend some time on each of these topics in this week’s video.
Globally, Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases have surged, led by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant. People below the age of 30 accounted for about half of all new cases. While vaccination rates are high among the elderly in Japan, only a fraction of those under 20 have had boosters.
In the United States, daily case counts have seen little change in the past two weeks, continuing at an average of about 130,000 new cases each day. We know the case numbers are undercounted but the trajectory is pretty flat. Hospitalizations continue to increase, as they have through the summer, but they remain well below the peaks reached in previous surges. Cases are increasing modestly in about half of states and decreasing modestly in the other half.
In watching wastewater surveillance, we think we have peaked or are close to it in our area. Harris County remains “high” on the CDC.gov website. Remember to check for your county to determine whether or not you should be masking indoors. Baylor is in Harris County, so masking indoors will continue.
On Thursday the U.S. declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. I go over some important information in the video on where the cases are occurring globally and in the U.S. You can find out what the New England Journal of Medicine is reporting about monkeypox, from who is being impacted to who needs to be tested and who should be vaccinated. I will have more on monkeypox next week.
Back to COVID-19, two different studies arrived at the same conclusion – the coronavirus epidemic likely began in the area of a wholesale market, not from a laboratory leak. Will this stop the controversy? Probably not, but there is good evidence available now that it resulted from multiple zoonotic events.
I hope you have a great weekend. I really enjoyed my time away but Lily and I are happy to be back greeting her fans on our neighborhood walks. It is amazing how many people stop to say hello to her; me, not so much.
Paul Klotman, M.D.
President & CEO