The Perfect Enemy | COVID in California: Long COVID associated with increase in suicidal thoughts, study shows
September 29, 2022

COVID in California: Long COVID associated with increase in suicidal thoughts, study shows

COVID in California: Long COVID associated with increase in suicidal thoughts, study shows  San Francisco ChronicleView Full Coverage on Google News

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U.S. weekly average of COVID cases fall 19% 

The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decreased to 70,488 last week, marking an 18.8% decrease compared to the 86,853 daily average reported in the previous week, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The omicron BA.5 lineage remained dominant, making up 87.5% of the new sequenced cases, followed by BA.4.6 at 9.2%.

New COVID-19 hospital admissions nationally also dipped 10.5% compared to the previous week, with an average of 4,620 a day. Daily deaths are trended down about 28.1%, with an average of 315 per day.

That remains higher than the pandemic low of 215 per day recorded last July. The average nationwide coronavirus test positive rate also remains high at 13.2%. About 17.2% of U.S. counties have a high COVID-19 community level, with “most of the country” reporting moderate to high SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater.

Low marks for American health care system in new AP poll

A majority of adults in the U.S. say that health care is not handled well in the country, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll reveals that public satisfaction with the U.S. health care system is remarkably low, with fewer than half of Americans saying it is generally handled well. Only 12% say it is handled extremely or very well.

More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic’s start, health care worker burnout and staffing shortages are plaguing hospitals around the country. And Americans are still having trouble getting in-person medical care after health centers introduced restrictions as COVID-19 killed and sickened millions of people around the country.

A majority of Americans, roughly two-thirds, were happy to see the government step in to provide free COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment. Roughly 2 in 10 were neutral about the government’s response. But the government’s funding for free COVID-19 tests dried up at the beginning of the month. While the White House says the latest batch of recommended COVID-19 boosters will be free to anyone who wants one, it doesn’t have money on hand to buy any future rounds of booster shots for every American.

COVID emergency orders remain in just 10 states

With Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement Monday that she will let the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency expire at midnight, New York becomes the latest state to drop measures enacted in March 2020 to help various government agencies battle the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re in a different place now,” Hochul said. 

There are now 10 states with emergency powers in place, according to a tally by The Hill. That includes California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the COVID-19 state of emergency in June — but with just 5% of the provisions in place.

Declarations also remain in place in Washington until Oct. 31; Kansas through Jan. 2023; and Connecticut through at least Dec. 28. Governors in the following states renewed the orders for one month in August and will reevaluate them later this month: New Mexico, Texas, Delaware, Illinois and Rhode Island.

S.F. COVID cases fall to March low, but hospitalizations edge up

San Francisco reported a seven-day average of 83 new coronavirus cases per day, the lowest figure since the lull in early March preceding the omicron BA.2 surge in the spring.

Despite the improving trends, August was the fourth deadliest month this year for COVID-19 patients, with 41 city residents losing their lives due to the virus. The city recorded 74 deaths in February, 73 in January, and 46 in July. As of Friday, the Bay Area region reported about 13 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down by 60% from a month ago. California reported 15 cases per 100,000, compared to 36 per 100,000 in the same period.

Despite the improvements in case numbers, hospitalizations are ticking back up. There were 82 patients with COVID-19 in San Francisco as of Friday, up from 69 a week earlier. In the Bay Area, that number increased to 539 from 515.

Long COVID associated with increase in suicidal thoughts, study shows

Long COVID may potentially be linked with an increased risk of mental illness and suicidal thoughts, according to emerging research analyzed by Reuters.

In an analysis of 20 major U.S. hospital systems, including more than 1.3 million adults with a COVID diagnosis and 19,000 with a long COVID diagnosis between May 2020 and July 2022, patients with long COVID were nearly twice as likely to receive a first-time antidepressant prescription within 90 days of their initial COVID diagnosis compared with people diagnosed with COVID alone, the Seattle-based health data firm Truveta showed.

Up to 23 million Americans suffer from long COVID — a complex and poorly understood medical condition with more than 200 symptoms — based on estimates published in March by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Many recover but as many as 15% experience symptoms after 12 months, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the report says. Survivor Corps, an advocacy group for long COVID patients, found that 44% of nearly 200 survey respondents in May said they had considered suicide.

COVID illnesses keeping 500,000 Americans out of work, study finds

Estimates show that COVID-19 illnesses have reduced the U.S. labor force by approximately 500,000 people, according to a new report by economists Gopi Shah Goda of Stanford University and Evan J. Soltas at MIT. 

Approximately 10 workers per 1,000 missed a week of work for health reasons during the coronavirus pandemic, on average — up from 6 health-related absences per 1,000 before the pandemic. Each absence results in forgone earnings of at least $9,000 over the 14 months following the initial week of infection. “Using an event study, we find that workers who miss a full week of work due to probable COVID-19 illnesses become about 7 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force one year later compared to similar workers who do not miss work for health reasons,” the authors conclude.

Fifth & Mission Podcast: When should you get the omicron booster?

There’s a reformulated booster shot that targets the omicron variants of COVID-19 as well as the ancestral strain of the virus.

The booster is a milestone in how quickly science is able to respond to the ever-evolving virus. But with pandemic and vaccination fatigue setting in, does such a breakthrough even matter?

On this episode of the Fifth & Mission podcast, Chronicle health reporter Catherine Ho joins host Cecilia Lei to talk about how to think about boosters, and if and when you should get them.

I’ve never tested positive for COVID. How can I know if I’ve ever been infected?

The Chronicle’s Pandemic Problems advice columnists tackled a question from a reader who asked if there’s any way to know whether they’ve had an asymptomatic COVID case, since they’ve never tested positive for a coronavirus infection. 

 In April of this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 40% of the U.S. population had still not been infected with COVID-19, but that was before the highly contagious BA.5 variant, so that number could be far lower now.

Why Australia’s flu season is stoking fears about a U.S. ‘twindemic’

Scientists and health professionals are raising concerns about the possibility of a particularly bad flu season in the U.S. and across much of the Northern Hemisphere this year after taking stock of what doctor called the “worst flu season in five years” in Australia, Yahoo News reported. 

Since the Southern Hemisphere is just getting through its flu season, scientists and doctors look to countries like Australia as a barometer for what people in the Northern Hemisphere might face when it comes to influenza. After a difficult flu season in Australia, doctors and U.S. officials are concerned that a similarly dangerous situation could develop stateside as flu season approaches, which would collide with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Influenza numbers will be especially to monitor beginning next month, experts said. 

Climate change to increase risk of more “extreme epidemics,” study finds

Climate change is likely to increase the likelihood of an “extreme” or a pandemic similar to COVID-19 by about threefold over the next several decades, according to a new study. 

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reviewed 400 years worth of available information on epidemics to conclude that, in addition to more frequent, extreme epidemics, the average person was 38% more likely to experience a COVID-like pandemic in their lifetime. 

The study focused in part on estimates of the rate of increase in diseases that emerge from non-human animal populations associated with climate change, the authors wrote. 

When’s the best time to get the new COVID booster shot? Here’s what experts say

Millions of Americans became eligible late last week to get a reformulated COVID booster shot that targets both the ancestral and omicron strains of the virus — a step that health officials hope will help mitigate a potential fall or winter surge.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone 12 and older get a booster at least two months after their last COVID shot or three months after recovering from a COVID infection. Read more here about the best time to get a bivalent booster.