Americans navigating the COVID-19 pandemic during the latest virus surge say frequent changes in federal guidelines don’t make their lives any easier. They are not the only ones frustrated by their situation.

As new deaths, cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in the majority of states, these concerns are growing. Some prominent health experts who have stood by the CDC and its science-based decisions since the beginning of the pandemic are now criticizing the agency for poor communication.

The agency’s “messaging problem” can be divided into three main issues, health experts said, the biggest of which is inconsistent transparency.

On every policy update, the CDC must back up its decision with clear data and translate the science so the general public can understand it, said Thomas Hipper, associate director of the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Hipper claimed that CDC officials didn’t specifically cite scientific evidence when they released the new isolation guidelines for Dec. 27.

“Simply announcing the change and trying to explain it without the clear rationale leaves you exposed to questioning,” he said. “Letting the public see those imperfect choices helps justify why the decision was made.”

Health experts said the second issue contributing to the CDC’s messaging problem is that local health departments and national organizations feel left out of the agency’s decision-making. 

Experts also said that the CDC had failed to hold itself accountable. The agency has reiterated the science of the pandemic is evolving, and although that is true, health experts say the CDC still needs to acknowledge its errors in that space of inherent uncertainty.

“It humanizes this effort, and it would go a long way in building back trust,” Hipper said. “There’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that, ‘Hey, we didn’t get everything right, but we’re committed to getting it as right as we can.’”

You can also find the latest news here:

►New Jersey COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 28% since Jan. 2. And the number of people needing a ventilator rose to 500 Monday — a 71% jump in that period.

►Novak Djokovic acknowledged Wednesday that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information, and he also confessed to an “error of judgment” in taking part in an interview and photoshoot in Serbia last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

►The U.S. Army, for the first time, is offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to recruits who join for six years as the service struggles to lure soldiers into critical jobs amid the pandemic, according to The Associated Press.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 62.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 843,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 315 million cases and nearly 5.5 million deaths. More than 208 million Americans – 62.7% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘We’re looking at: Is it safe to wring your neck with an at-home COVID testing kit? Experts say that this is not the case.

This page is updated regularly so you don’t miss any new information. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Infections, hospitalizations, deaths rising in almost every state

With an average of 9 new cases per second over the past week, the pace of COVID-19 reports in America is continuing to rise. USA TODAY’s analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows that more than 5 million cases were reported in the United States during Wednesday. This number is higher than the 5.3million reported in Tuesday’s seven-day period. 

This analysis showed that 47 states saw an increase in their case numbers, 38 had a rise in death rates, and 49 had more COVID-19-infant hospitalizations than the week prior. According to federal data, the nation now has approximately 152,000 COVID-19-injured patients in hospitals, and 252 beds in intensive care.

Mike Stucka

Although more children are admitted, the cases tend to be milder.

America is seeing more children test positive for the coronavirus, as it sets new records in hospitalizations and cases. Children have made up more than 7 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. The USA has seen more than 60 million cases overall.

Jason Salemi from the University of South Florida, a professor of epidemiology, predicts more COVID-19 cases in the near future due to “astonishing numbers” of infections in children. Experts say that the majority of cases will not be severe due to mild symptoms seen in most Omicron patients. Find more information and data regarding COVID in children here.

Janie Haseman and Aleszu Bajak

Patient with COVID is crowding other patients in greatest need

Just as a cresting wave of COVID-19 patients need care, hospitals are facing severe staffing issues because so many are either out sick themselves, caring for family members, or quarantining due to an exposure. About one in five hospitals reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA TODAY analysis found. In the following week, one in four hospitals will experience severe shortages. Alabama, Indiana and Kentucky have less than 10% remaining capacity in ICUs.

Chicago surgeon Dr. Ryan Merkow has to make difficult decisions regarding who can be operated on, and who should wait.  According to him, Northwestern Memorial Hospital has “full” of COVID patients. The COVID floors were installed on our surgical floors. Some patients with cancer fly to their family for support during treatment.

“And then we have to pull the rug out from under them,” he said. Learn more.

– Elizabeth Weise and Kristen Jordan Shamus

Biden dispatches medical personnel to assist states hit by the surge

The federal government is sending medical teams to six states — New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico — to help hospitals overburdened by COVID-19, USA TODAY has learned.

According to White House officials, President Joe Biden will announce Thursday’s deployments when he discusses steps that the administration has taken to combat an increase in infection caused by the Omicron variant.

His remarks come as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting records. Some hospitals are delaying elective surgeries as states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.

Facing pressure from even members of his own party to do more to get the pandemic under control, Biden’s new actions are expected to center on additional manpower. 

USA TODAY — Maureen Groppe, Donovan Slack

Contributing to The Associated Press



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