COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship, September 30, 2022


September 30, 2022

COVID-19 Hardship

September 30, 2022 

The pandemic is not over edition.  Many Americans are acting as if the pandemic is over, and President Biden even said as much in a recent interview with 60 Minutes (although he later walked back his comments). And it is true that as of this moment, we are trending in the right direction – daily infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are all significantly down; in some cases, the metrics reflect the pre-Delta days of late spring and early summer 2021 (another time when some thought the pandemic was winding down).

Still, the pandemic persists. The daily death rate is more than double that of a particularly severe flu season. Close to 30,000 hospitalizations mean acute hardship, both for individuals and, in some cases, for health systems. And there are warning signs. In Britain and parts of Europe, which have in the past foreshadowed what is to come in the U.S., both daily infection rates and hospitalizations have been rising over the past week or two. In Britain, two new worrisome Omicron subvariants have emerged – BA.2.75.2 and BQ.1.1 make up a tiny percentage of cases, but are rapidly increasing their “market share” of all COVID-19 cases. In the U.S., scientists are also watching the spread of BA.2.75.2 (and another subvariant, BF.7). BA.2.75.2 is particularly troubling. Its spike protein binds to human cells tightly – better than any other variant we’ve seen thus far. It has “extensive escape” ability, meaning it can evade antibodies caused by vaccination or previous infection, or both. It may be more transmissible. 

Then there is the looming impact of long Covid – below, you’ll see a link to a study that shows as many as 18 million Americans have it and as many as 4 million Americans can’t work because of it. About 1 in 5 COVID-19 survivors in the U.S., including some who were never very sick as a result of their infection, develop long Covid, according to the CDC. Symptoms of long Covid include fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, pounding heartbeat, headaches, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and joint pain. “We’re in the middle of the greatest mass-disability event in human history,” says long Covid patient and advocate Charlie McCone. So, no, the pandemic is not over, Americans’ attitudes and behaviors notwithstanding. And neither are the epidemic levels of substance use disorders and mental health problems that were worsened in the pandemic. That is why Congress must act – to keep up our response to the ever-shifting coronavirus, to improve preparedness for new public health threats, and to help people cope with the pandemic’s dangerous aftermath.  




As of Wednesday, September 28, 48,806 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S., a 22 percent decrease over the previous two weeks. 28,765 hospitalizations were counted, a 14 percent decrease, along with 404 deaths, a 12 percent decrease. Tweet this.


$1.5 trillion 

The economic toll of the opioid crisis in the U.S. reached nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020 alone and is likely to grow, according to a new congressional report. That’s a $487 billion increase from 2019, before the pandemic began. Tweet this.



Admissions to drug treatment facilities fell more than 23 percent during the pandemic, even as substance use disorders and overdose deaths rose, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Native Americans accounted for the largest drop in admissions (a stunning decline from 144.5 to 82.8 per 10,000) and they also accounted for the largest increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic. Tweet this.


$1.5 billion 

President Biden announced last week his administration would provide $1.5 billion to states and territories, including tribal lands, to fight opioid overdoses and fund recovery programs. Tweet this.


16 million/

4 million 

An estimated 16 million Americans have lingering health issues after a COVID-19 infection and 4 million are not working because of their symptoms, according to an August report from the Brookings Institute. Tweet this.




According to an Axios/Ipsos poll, 17 percent of respondents said their biggest fear related to COVID-19 is the possibility of getting long Covid.



Since 2019, the number of teenage girls who have contemplated suicide has risen 50 percent. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S., according to the CDC.



Since the 988 mental health hotline was first approved by Congress and the FCC in 2020, went operational in 2021, and was massively upgraded this summer, the number of calls  coming in have greatly increased, with hundreds of thousands of people getting help they need. The number of contacts via calls, text, and chat in August 2022 increased 45 percent over August 2021 – an increase of 152,000 contacts.



A study of life expectancy in the U.S. compared to 19 peer countries reveals that the U.S. is falling behind, in part because COVID-19 was better managed in other countries than here at home. The study found that life expectancy dropped 1.9 years in the U.S. in 2021, compared to an average of 0.6 years in the 19 peer countries.


15 million 

15 million people with low incomes are expected to lose Medicaid coverage once the federal government ends the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which could come as soon as January, 2023. According to an HHS report, 5.3m of these would be children; 4.7m would be young adults age 18-34.  About one-third will be eligible for ACA insurance with subsidies; many others will fail to find affordable insurance.





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