As COVID BA.2 -19 cases rises, 1000s die a day and the U.S economy sinks to the bottom, Biden does nothing

As COVID BA.2 -19 cases rises, 1000s die a day and  the U.S economy sinks to the bottom,  Biden does nothing

As COVID-19 cases continue to tick up in the United States, the Northeast appears to be fueling the increase.

Four of the five states with the highest seven-day case rates per 100,000 are in the Northeast. In the 10 states with the highest seven-day rates, seven are Northeastern, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Rhode Island currently has the highest seven-day case rate at 172.4 cases per 100,000 people. This is nearly three times higher than the national rate of 59.4 cases per 100,000 people.

As of Friday, the Ocean State has also seen its average daily number of cases increase 53% over a two-week period from 170 per day to 260 per day, CDC data shows.

Other Northeastern states seeing increases include Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Maine and Connecticut.

In particular, New York and New Jersey have seen their average daily cases increase by 64%, the CDC data shows.

Experts said one of the reasons for the rise in cases is the spread of BA.2, a subvariant of the original omicron variant that is more transmissible.

In the Northeast, BA.2 accounts for more than 84% of COVID-19 cases that have undergone genomic sequencing, more than any other region in the country, according to the CDC.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist with the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told ABC News that early evidence suggests people who were infected with the original omicron variant during the previous wave may now have some immunity against BA.2.

He suggested states that were able to have better control of cases earlier may currently be more vulnerable to infections.

"States that did a good job controlling infections with mandates, most in the Northeast and West, are more susceptible now with BA.2," he said.

Mokdad compared Maine and Florida using data from the institute, which projects COVID-19 cases around the country.

"We estimate that 54% of people in Maine have been infected at least once as of April 4," he said. "So, we estimate that 60% are immune. We estimate that 87% of people in Florida have been infected at least once as of April 4. We estimate that 80% are immune."

Another reason Northeastern states may be seeing case increases is due to the lifting of mask and vaccine requirements, the experts said.

"Not only is BA.2 extraordinarily transmissible, but now, consistent with CDC guidelines, many people are going to crowded indoor events and outdoor events without wearing a mask and not social distancing," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told ABC News. "In anticipation of summer ... people are eager to see family and friends and engage in near-normal activities again."

However, the experts warned the true number of cases could be even higher as some states shift their COVID-19 testing strategy.

In late February, the Rhode Island Department of Health announced that -- starting March 7 -- state-run testing sites would not accept asymptomatic patients unless they had been in close contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.

"Focusing testing efforts at Rhode Island's state-run testing sites on people who are symptomatic and people who are close contacts will ensure that people who are positive and eligible for treatment can be quickly connected to treatment," the department said in a news release.

Schaffner said he expects that the rise of cases in the Northeast will be followed in the next few weeks by increases in the Midwest, the South and the West.

"This is reminiscent of the very beginning of COVID here in the United States," he said. "The Northeast led the rest of the country; they had the most infections for quite a period of time before the COVID virus spread to the rest of the county. So perhaps this is a little bit of history repeating itself."

However, the doctors reiterated that unvaccinated people are at the highest risk of severe illness and death from BA.2 and stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted.

 

Prices are rising at the fastest rate in many Americans’ lifetimes — and there’s no telling when they will slow down

 

Before the pandemic, there was the greatest disappearing act of modern economics: After years of booming job creation and sinking unemployment pre-pandemic, where was the inflation that typically comes along with it?

If consumers ever asked that question, they might be regretting it now.

Price pressures have returned with a vengeance, rising by the fastest rate that many Americans have ever seen. CPI — the closest-watched inflation gauge tracking items that the average American buys — rose by 7.9 percent between February 2021 and February 2022, the fastest annual clip since January 1982.

Used cars (41.7 percent), gasoline (38 percent), energy (25.6 percent), rental vehicles (24.3 percent) and utility services (23.8 percent) were among the items that got the most expensive over the 12-month period. In January 2021, prices soared from a year earlier by a meager 1.4 percent rate.

A March Bankrate survey found that more than 9 in 10 U.S. adults (or 93 percent) have felt inflation take a bite out of their wallet, while almost 3 in 4 say those increases have negatively impacted their wallet.

“Food, electricity and shelter were the biggest contributors, but the increases were pervasive, which virtually any household can tell you,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst.

Underneath the hood, inflation broke records and also showed signs of broadening out. Prices on lunch meats, chicken, baby food, household furnishings, men’s apparel and new trucks all rose by a record rate. That was also true for the price of many services: Having a meal out at a restaurant, staying at a hotel room for the night or repairing your vehicle climbed in the month by the quickest pace ever.

The more categories that inflation starts to permeate, the harder it gets to cool down. Economists have long equated inflation to an airplane taking off on the runway. Once it gains speed, it’s very hard to turn around.

Landlords, for example, could see higher energy costs and raise rent, locking in tenants on higher shelter costs for a full year. Workers could start to ask for higher pay if it becomes widespread enough — and it might already be happening according to Zillow, which found in February that a one-year lease cost an average of $3,400 more than it did two years ago.

All of that means inflation could linger for longer, even if supply chain pressures keep gradually easing, as they already have been, according to the New York Fed’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index.

Supply chain bottlenecks lingered longer beyond lockdowns than most economists expected, as virus cases continued to shut down factories across the globe and worker shortages reduced production. That’s after many Americans ramped up their purchases of goods, flush with cash from stimulus checks and lockdown-induced savings.

“There’s a global traffic jam of goods affecting cargo ships, shipping containers, trucks and railroads. That’s leading to price increases,” says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst. “Resolution of these complicated supply traffic jams doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon.”

But the inflation picture has gotten considerably darker in recent months. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, which caused global commodity, gasoline and energy prices to skyrocket. Americans in March paid a record amount for gasoline at the pump, according to AAA. Supply chains could also soon reverse some of their recent improvement, after China in March reinstated COVID-19 lockdowns.

Consumer confidence is already taking a tumble as many Americans start to brace for more inflation, with the closely tracked University of Michigan consumer sentiment index in January dropping to 67.2 percent, the lowest since 2011.

“It continues to seem likely that hoped-for supply-side healing will come over time as the world ultimately settles into some new normal, but the timing and scope of that relief are highly uncertain,” said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during a March public appearance.