COVID-19 Roundup: 90% of Americans Still Vulnerable; College-Age Adults See August Spike; and Alcohol Consumption Rises

Far from Herd Immunity: Less than 10% of Americans have Coronavirus Antibodies, National Study Finds

The U.S. is a long way from achieving so-called COVID-19 “herd immunity,” which is when enough people (close to 80 percent) become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely.

Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans show signs of antibodies to the coronavirus, which demonstrates past infection, as of late July, according to one of the largest studies of its type, which was just published in the journal the Lancet.

The findings do not indicate exactly how many U.S. adults may be immune to the virus as a result of antibodies. That’s because not every individual infected with COVID-19 develops antibodies.

Moreover, it is not clear to researchers how strong a defense antibodies might provide, or for how long. But this latest study, in addition to similar results from research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other institutions, makes it apparent that the U.S. is very far from herd immunity, a goal which cannot be achieved without a viable vaccine, expert says.

The new study concludes that the percentages of antibodies varied greatly by regions.

The study states: “There was significant regional variation from less than 5% prevalence in the West to more than 25% in the Northeast. Public health efforts to curb the spread of the virus need to continue, with focus on some of the highest-risk communities that we identified, such as majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, poorer neighborhoods, and densely populated metropolitan areas.”

College-Age Adults See Surge in COVID-19 Cases, Aug. 2-Sept. 5, CDC Says

COVID-10 cases increased dramatically among college-age adults between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Coronavirus cases jumped 55 percent across the country in the category of 18- to 22-year-olds, and they represented a bigger share of overall cases, said the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The CDC said the surge in cases could not be fully explained, even though the higher rate coincided with ramped-up testing as colleges reopened for fall semesters.

The CDC study says: “Young adults, including those enrolled in colleges and universities, should take precautions, including mask wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene, and follow local, state, and federal guidance for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.”

The U.S. Northeast saw the biggest increase in COVID-19 cases among 18- to 22-year-olds, with a 144 percent increase. Cases in that age group in the Midwest spiked, with a 123 percent increase.

Because about 45 percent of persons aged 18–22 years attend colleges and universities, it is likely that some of this increase is “linked to resumption of in-person attendance at some colleges and universities,” the CDC said. Obtaining “detailed exposure information” from patients in this age group can help identify the “specific drivers of the observed trends,” the agency added.

Alcohol Consumption in U.S. Rises Significantly During Pandemic, Study Finds

U.S. adults are drinking more alcohol since the pandemic, about 14% more overall this year than they did during the same time in 2019, a new study says. The findings are alarming, the researchers conclude, because such a trend can put people at greater risk for health issues related to alcohol consumption.

The higher rates were more pronounced among women, according to the new study, conducted by the RAND Corporation and published this week in the journal JAMA Network Open. The study was supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Researchers found a 17 percent increase in alcohol consumption among women and 19 percent among those ages 30 to 59. Heavy drinking among women — defined as four or more drinks within two hours — jumped 41%, the study said.

The study participants completed a survey about their drinking habits between April 29 and June 9 of 2019, and then again between May 28 and June 16 of 2020. A total of 1,540 people, ages 30 to 80, took part. The reported surge for most participants in the group amounted to one additional drinking day per month.

The study’s authors: “In addition to a range of negative physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression,6 which may themselves be increasing during COVID-19.”

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