By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
It's a confusing time, yet again, in the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 cases are increasing across the U.S., driven by the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus yet. Reinfections are up too, and may increase the likelihood of new health problems. Even President Joe Biden has contracted the virus, forcing him to work in isolation from the White House.
Each of these developments is alarming in their own way. But none of them seems to have shaken the public conscious like earlier pandemic news could. In CNN's latest national poll, COVID-19 was a central concern to just 26% of voters, far behind the economy, abortion and the climate crisis.
There's good reason for this: A significant proportion of Americans are vaccinated — although the percent having received a booster is lower — and there are new treatments offering better outcomes to those who get the virus. Despite Biden's age putting him at risk for severe COVID-19, for example, because of these advances, his experience with the coronavirus should look a lot different from that of President Donald Trump, who was in the hospital for days in October 2020.
But with a subvariant that can outmaneuver vaccination or immunity from recent COVID infections, our days of putting COVID-19 on the back burner may be numbered.
Take Los Angeles, for example, the second most populous city in the U.S. Health officials say LA County's high COVID-19 community level means a universal indoor masking mandate could be enacted as soon as this week. While daily reported cases have leveled off, with about 6,700 new cases daily, Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that the community level must decline back to "medium" by July 28 to avoid an indoor mask requirement occurring on July 29.
And it's not just LA that's reacting to rising case numbers and hospitalizations. The share of the United States population that lives in a county with a "high COVID-19 Community Level," where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking, has doubled over the past two weeks. And as Americans have switched to more rapid at-home tests, official case counts reflect just a fraction of the true disease burden.
That's why there's renewed discussion of indoor masking, with Boston, for example, issuing a new mask advisory earlier this month. But a lot depends on local politics, and the merits of such measures — especially mandates — remains a matter of debate.
We really should have been taking precautions all along. But we are human, and this has been like being on a diet - and we've been cheating.
I never stopped masking and social distancing, Covid is still killing more people every day than WW2, future historians and sociologists will marvel at how a so called developed nation willingly surrendered to a plague.
I still wear my mask when I'm out. I just had 5 family members come down with Covid. They have all recovered.
@HippieChick58 Yes, have friends and family fall ill recently. Recovered ... but ... more and more we know Covid has long term effects, it ain't just a cold or flu. I'll skip getting it in the first place if I can.
It's on the rise here in eastern WA. Almost no masks when I shopped today. This may be evil but I can't take much more stupid, hope it's mostly republicans that are getting sick.
I still wear my mask when I'm out. Last time I was out I saw only a few masks. It makes me sad. People are stupid.
I still wear my mask when I'm out.