COVID-19 update

May 17 8:00am | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara | Comments (4)

The widespread availability of at-home COVID-19 tests have made it easier for people to know if they have the virus, and to take measures to protect themselves and others. But there is a downside. Because the majority of tests are now done at home and often not reported, the official counts on COVID-19 infection rates are not as accurate as they have been in past waves of the virus.

"Because the majority of testing is being done at home, we can no longer tell you accurately about the positivity rate for a given community for a given state like we used to be able to," explains Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "And this is problematic. It means that we lose our ability to understand what's called genetic epidemiology — the ability to trace how these variants are moving, how fast they're moving, and whether they're changing and evolving into yet different subvariants or new variants. We've lost that ability now."

The most recent omicron subvariant, BA 2.12.1, has cases on the rise again and the U.S. passed a tragic milestone last week, reaching 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the country.

In an effort to capture a more accurate picture, the latest tool being used by public health officials to track COVID-19 infection rates is wastewater surveillance. By looking for the presence of the COVID-19 virus shed by people, wastewater surveillance can give a more accurate picture of how much virus is in the community. This detects virus not only from those who test at home, but also from people who are asymptomatic and, therefore, didn't get tested.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses the current state of COVID-19 in the U.S., including what we know about the latest subvariants.

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Read the full transcript.

Research disclosures for Dr. Gregory Poland.

Connect with others talking about the pandemic and supporting one another in the COVID-19 support group.

Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Podcasts blog.

Thanks for posting this podcast. There is a lot of really good information in here.

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I have always appreciated Dr. Poland sharing the latest COVID data with us. However, I feel like we’re at a point where he’s “preaching to the choir” about vaccines and prevention. With the data suggesting that the vaccines and boosters lose efficacy after 6-8 weeks, why aren’t we hearing more about treatment? Why isn’t treatment more readily available and easily accessible? Unfortunately I’m starting to feel like this reeks of conspiracy.

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You make a good point about treatment. I’m reading on multiple platforms that people are having a hard time finding EVUsheld. When I was in the hospital with chest pains and learned I was also sick with Covid, I asked about treatments and was told the monoclonal antibodies didn’t work any more. I also asked about having antiviral pills but the doctor said the hospital didn’t have any. A mere two weeks later, Mr. Biden was talking about test to treat. Soon thereafter we learned which pharmacies had which treatment but the next hurdle is having a care provider take our request and send a prescription for antiviral pills. None of our test to treat centers have a care provider so we will lose valuable time finding an appointment so we can take the pills within the five day window. Why can’t I just get the five pills during my regular well person visit, and save them for the chance that I might do a home test and find myself sick with Covid? Personally I don’t see conspiracy here, just a lack of foresight and communication.

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@mpeters

You make a good point about treatment. I’m reading on multiple platforms that people are having a hard time finding EVUsheld. When I was in the hospital with chest pains and learned I was also sick with Covid, I asked about treatments and was told the monoclonal antibodies didn’t work any more. I also asked about having antiviral pills but the doctor said the hospital didn’t have any. A mere two weeks later, Mr. Biden was talking about test to treat. Soon thereafter we learned which pharmacies had which treatment but the next hurdle is having a care provider take our request and send a prescription for antiviral pills. None of our test to treat centers have a care provider so we will lose valuable time finding an appointment so we can take the pills within the five day window. Why can’t I just get the five pills during my regular well person visit, and save them for the chance that I might do a home test and find myself sick with Covid? Personally I don’t see conspiracy here, just a lack of foresight and communication.

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@mpeters , @ladydidehart, and all…
It may be a pharmaceutical/$$$ conspiracy. At this point, I don't care any more. But, it is definitely incompetence and lack of logic.
I am soooo pleased to live in Florida where we had monoclonal antibodies available throughout the state and other treatment options. This is NOT a political statement…just fact.
I see no logical reason we don't have pharmacies flooded with pills, all treatment thought to help and not hurt.

I think our feds need to get out of the way now and let the market work????maybe it's past time for us to take care of ourselves. For the PCP docs to have access to treatments???

I know I can purchase some treatments online, and will do so if I think I need to. My choice. We shouldn't be required to jump through hoops re covid. Time for us to make our own decisions, work with our local medical folks who should have full access to what we need.

I think most of us are now soooo tired of the massive control, misinformation in both directions and unnecessary pain and illness for all of us.

My thoughts. Be well. Be blessed. Elizabeth

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