Thursday Stats and More

Based on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker and using Thursday as the first day of the week, here is the FEHBlog’s final weekly calendar for 2021 and it’s a stunner:

STAT News features a timely article captioned “Beyond Case Counts: What Omicron is teaching us.”

Brace yourself: Case counts are going to reach astounding heights. Already, reported infections have doubled in just a few weeks. The average daily number of infections is greater than 300,000. (It’s likely that our case counts will become increasingly less reliable as well, given both the shortcomings of our testing infrastructure and the growing use of at-home tests.)  

But, in large part because the immunological landscape today is far different than what it was two years ago, cases are less likely to result in severe disease than was the case at the start of the pandemic. 

Back then, a rise in cases inevitably led to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. When vaccines went into wide use, those metrics started to become decoupled; cases could rise sharply but hospitalizations and deaths occurred at a lower level than before. In the current phase of the pandemic, the distance between those metrics is growing even greater. * * *

[A] key question relates to how long we’ll be in Omicron’s grasp. South Africa’s bellwether wave soared to extraordinary heights — then quickly began to ebb. Data from several European countries also suggest that Omicron waves may be short, sharp shocks compared to the waves that have preceded it. But too little is yet known to predict with any confidence whether the experience of a country with a relatively young population, such as South Africa, will hold true in a country with an older population, such as the United States. 

Here’s a link to the FEHBlog’s final weekly chart of new COVID deaths:

As cases have skyrocketed, deaths have ranged between 5,000 and 10,000 per week for over four months.

Here’s the FEHBlog’s weekly chart of new COVID vaccinations administered and distributed from the 51st week of 2020, when the vaccinations became available to the public, and the 52nd week of 2021:

The number of administered COVID vaccines has dropped during the holidays. Currently, 72.8% of Americans aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated and 36.3% of that cadre are boostered. Nearly 50% of Americans aged 50 and older are boostered.

Also from the COVID vaccine front, the Hill reports that

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds on Monday, people familiar with the agency’s plan told The New York Times.

In addition to that broadened policy, the FDA also intends to announce that both children and adults could seek their booster shot five months after their second dose, instead of the previously advised six months. Immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 are also expected to be allowed boosters, according to the Times.

The Times reported that the vaccine advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to meet next week to vote on approving the FDA’s policy changes, which CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to endorse. 

From the No Surprises Act front, CMS has released a handy, comprehensive overview of the federal independent review process. Check it out.

From the Affordable Care Act front, Prof. Katie Keith writing in Health Affairs Forefront has released two of three articles on the ACA 2023 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters released earlier this week — link to Part 1 and link to Part 2. Part 1 includes a discussion of proposed changes to the medical loss ratio calculation and Part 2 discusses the standardized benefit requirements that the FEHB mentioned earlier this week.

From the health disparity front, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued its 2021 report on national healthcare qualities and disparities, the nineteen report in this series. Here’s a link to the report’s executive summary.

From the New Year’s Eve front, the New York Times made available this guidance:

“Many public health experts agree that you can celebrate with your favorite people as long as you’re taking precautions.
“To help you make a decision and gauge the level of risk, The Times has this quiz.”

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