We never would have imagined four years ago, at the start of the COVID pandemic that we’d be here in January 2024: in the middle of the second-highest COVID surge on record with 78% of states reporting “high” or “very high” levels of COVID, according to nationwide wastewater data.
During the last week of December 2023, the U.S. experienced a 12.5% increase in COVID deaths and a more than 20% increase in hospital admissions for COVID.
Washington state, according to wastewater data collected through Dec. 30, 2023, has “high” levels of COVID spread. And Clark County had 157 hospital admissions for COVID the final week of 2023. In nearby Skamania County, the COVID hospital admission rate spiked 120% during the final days of 2023.
Quoting the World Health Organization, the Associated Press also reported this week that at least 10,000 people died of COVID last month and that “hospital admissions during the month jumped 42% in nearly 50 countries — mostly in Europe and the Americas.”
And yet, the general public seems to have absolutely no idea how bad this COVID surge really is. There is no widespread masking going on, no return to online meetings to avoid gathering dozens of unmasked people inside a small room, no masking mandates inside hospitals or on public transportation and — judging from this editor’s own experiences inside local grocery stores and other crowded spaces, no staying home even for those who are clearly experiencing the classic coughing, congestion and runny nose symptoms that are hallmarks of the latest COVID variant known as JN.1.