School System Outbreaks of Covid

Blogger and Commenter RJS

Briefly: even though US Covid infections have been falling since labor day, there’s been anecdotal evidence it’s rising among school age kids . . . at the same time, there are now solid studies showing that the mRNA vaccines administered in the US are losing their effectiveness . . . hence, it looks likely that about the time the holidays roll around, many of those infected kids will be mingling with their vaccinated grandparents, who may no longer be protected against a serious case . . . no doubt the CDC sees that too, hence their sudden urgency to push booster vaccinations…

The drop in new US cases is mostly a story of the South, where the August surge was most pronounced, and to a lesser extent to the West, and that in turn was due to the turnaround in the high population states like Florida and Texas that led the surge . . . the seven day average of new cases in Florida, for instance has fallen from a 21,693 daily at the end of August to 5,875 yesterday; that drop alone is enough to take 10% off the national average . . . meanwhile, new cases in the Midwest and Northeast remain near their peak . . . I don’t know what’s going on in most of those states, but i have a few articles that might give us a clue:

Pennsylvania COVID-19 cases and deaths up tenfold after full reopening of schools –Coronavirus cases and deaths are once again surging in Pennsylvania, with the seven-day average of daily new cases now standing at 4,774, a jump of over 30 percent in the past 14 days and tenfold since August.  The number of deaths is also up tenfold in less than two months, climbing from a seven-day average of four per day on August 1 to 42 per day at present. The surge in infections and deaths has been driven by the lifting of all restrictions and the reopening of schools in August,

Coronavirus data for Friday, Sept. 24: Teens account for largest COVID case increase in Michigan – – Michigan’s daily COVID-19 case rates have been climbing for 2.5 months, including a nearly 50% increase over the last two weeks. Children 10 to 19 years old represent the largest week-over-week increase in cases (27%), as well as the highest average daily case rate per capita (386.7 cases per million people). That’s likely due in part to the return to school in recent weeks, which resulted in an increase in school-related COVID outbreaks.

 If the current Covid surge is mostly in the schools, then what’s happened in Israel might provide a warning for us: from Sept 21st:

Israel’s struggles to contain COVID-19 may be a warning for other nationsWidespread boosters don’t dent case rate as schools, holidays foster spread – Israel, among the first countries to launch coronavirus vaccinations and the first to roll out booster shots on a large scale, is offering a disturbing glimpse of what could be in store for other rich nations if they begin to give boosters this fall. Israel launched its pioneering booster campaign in late July, prompted by a surge in cases reflecting the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant, the loosening of restrictions, and an apparent waning of protection from vaccines given in early winter. But cases have risen even higher since, suggesting boosters are far from a panacea when children and others remain unvaccinated. Since 30 July, Israel has given a third shot of messenger RNA vaccine to more than 3 million people, including a majority of those 40 and older. Yet Israel is “stuck in a status quo of 1000 or 900 new cases per million per day,”

Even though Israel’s new infections are down by a third from the peak, their new cases per capita are still close to the highest in the world, with only Serbia, Cuba and the UK in the same range among other countries with sizable populations, and that’s despite almost a third of Israel’s population having received three shots . . . and that’s also despite an R0 number that’s fallen slightly below 1 . . . so what’s going on there? as the Science article explains:

The paradox reflects social realities, Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of public health services for Israel’s Ministry of Health, told the meeting. Public schools opened on 1 September and the Jewish High Holy Days, with their attendant travel and family gatherings, stretch from 6 to 27 September.

“The combination of [unvaccinated] children meeting in school followed up by large family gatherings is the recipe for mass dissemination of the disease,”

What has happened in Israel suggests that we might also be setting ourselves up for a similar surge come the holidays when the generations mingle, should the widespread infection rates continue in the school systems, vaccines not withstanding . . . that potential for a holiday surge in the US is further exacerbated because most of the vaccines that we’ve already administered are losing their effectiveness . . . 57% of the vaccines administered in the US were Pfizer, and the effectiveness of Pfizer vaccines starts to wane after 4 months:

Pfizer Vaccine Protection Wanes, C.D.C. Study Shows – The New York Times – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on Friday indicating that the level of protection against Covid hospitalizations afforded by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dropped significantly in the four months after full inoculation. The new study found that from two weeks after recipients got their second dose — a point at which they are normally considered fully vaccinated — to four months later, the Pfizer vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing hospitalization. Beyond 120 days, though, its effectiveness fell to 77 percent.

The Moderna vaccine also wanes over time, but not as quickly:

Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Protection Drops by 36% After 12 Months – In a new study published on Sept. 15 to a preprint server—the study is not yet peer-reviewed — researchers at Moderna .. report that people vaccinated within the last eight months had 36% fewer breakthrough infections than those who were vaccinated a year ago. That suggests vaccine-induced immunity is likely highest shortly after people get their recommended two doses of the vaccine, and starts to drop afterward.

And the loss of protection for those who are vaccinated is worse for older people:

Vaccine protection against Covid-19 wanes over time, especially for older people, CDC says – — The protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines appears to wane over time, especially for people 65 and older, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert said Wednesday. Effectiveness started to wane a few months after people were fully vaccinated — defined as two weeks after their second dose of either vaccine.

“For individuals 65 plus, we saw significant declines in VE (vaccine effectiveness) against infection during Delta for the mRNA products,”

The US vaccination rate peaked in mid April and the vast majority of our vaccines were administered by the end of May, and by July, vaccine uptake by Americans had slowed to a trickle . . . hence, most of those who received the Pfizer vaccine are at increasing risk of contracting a more severe form of Covid than we’ve come to expect in the so-called “breakthrough” cases, and those who got the Moderna vaccine won’t be far behind . . . my calendar shows that that Thanksgiving is now less than two months away . . . while Israel might be able to administer 3rd doses of the Pfizer vaccine to a third of their population in 2 months, there’s almost no chance that the US could pull off the same…