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The COVID-19 threat is waning

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The COVID-19 threat is waning

As the COVID pandemic wanes, Americans are being fed a distorted perception of the risks by the media and some experts. They continue to fuel fear by repeating speculation that variants will evade vaccines. Don’t buy it.

Look at the facts: About 57 percent of adults are vaccinated and approximately half of unvaccinated people have natural immunity from prior infection. That’s why US cases have been plummeting, down 31 percent over the past 18 days.

To put things in context, during the mildest flu season in the last eight years, there were 24 million cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and approximately 447,000 daily cases during its peak week. By comparison, we’re averaging 49,641 daily COVID cases. That same mild flu season resulted in 280,000 hospitalizations. By comparison, current COVID hospitalizations as of May 1 are 34,905.

Let me be clear: COVID is not the flu, and we should not downplay the risk among susceptible people. But for the millions of Americans who are immune and live where the cases are low, the public-health threat is now defanged and below seasonal-flu levels. Given the harm of social isolation, we need to abandon the goal of absolute risk elimination at all cost.

The case-fatality risk of COVID is also plummeting. That’s because a remarkable 83 percent of US seniors are now vaccinated and the virus has moved to younger, healthier people. For Americans under age 55, the case-fatality rate last month was approximately 6.5 per 10,000. Since we are now capturing as many as 1 in 4.5 infections with testing, the real-world case-fatality rate is 1 to 1.4 per 10,000, similar to influenza (1.3 per 10,000 in people under 50). And vaccines will likely provide at least some immunity against variants.

With far fewer susceptible people and a younger cohort, we’re dealing with a different risk level than even just a few months ago.

Despite this good news, Americans are being told variants and hesitancy will prevent “herd immunity.” Yet noticeably absent from their calculations is the contribution of natural immunity from prior infection or exposure. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky simply don’t talk about the percent of Americans they estimate have natural immunity. That omission creates a perception that the race to 70 to 85 percent immunity is more desperate, resulting in a prolonged timeline, talk of vaccine mandates and an imperative that young kids get the shot.

Some experts do highlight the massive contribution of natural immunity. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Monica Gandhi at the University of California are among the many who routinely point to the broad prevalence of natural immunity.

In a recent Danish study of natural immunity, only 0.6 percent of those infected ever subsequently tested positive, including asymptomatic positives. A large California study found 38 percent of the state’s population and 45 percent of Los Angeles residents had COVID-19 antibodies in February. Given the many infections since then and the immunity conferred by activated T cells even when antibodies are not detected, upward of half the population of California likely has natural immunity. And cases in California have dropped like a rock.

On a clinical level, we simply have not seen significant re-infections at any concerning rate. Any expert who talks about the path to herd immunity as a simple tally of vaccinations alone – which unfortunately is many – is ignoring data and real-world clinical experience.

In February, I projected that “based on the current trajectory” we’d see significant population immunity take hold in April from the combination of vaccinated and natural immunity. While most states are now witnessing the strong suppression of the epidemic today, other states will get there in May. But herd immunity is not a finish line. In that article, I maintained that “coronavirus will be here for decades to come.” The question is, at what point is it no longer a major public-health threat? For most states, it’s now.

Given the now low, manageable and declining COVID threat, let’s stop depriving people of their livelihoods and move toward normalcy.

Marty Makary M.D., M.P.H. is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, chief medical adviser to Sesame Care and author of the upcoming book “The Price We Pay.”

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Opinion

Still hopeless on NYC’s homeless

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Still hopeless on NYC’s homeless

New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg minced no words Sunday in slamming the homeless advocates who “have sort of decided that the subway is a reasonable place for folks to live.”

“The answer should never be that someone lives on a bench or someone lives in a tunnel,” she told WABC radio. Darn right. And: “It boggles the mind that there are groups out there that have decided that this is an acceptable solution for these folks.” 

Worse, these groups “have devoted their time and their resources and their advocacy skills” to enabling such abuse of public spaces.

Yet Mayor Bill de Blasio, for his homelessness czar, tapped one of these advocates: Steven Banks, who has presided over a vast increase in city spending on the homeless and a simultaneous rise in the street-homeless problem.

Indeed, the advocates have city politicians so afraid to adopt a “tough love” approach to the homeless that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had to order late-night subway closures in the name of “cleaning,” just to stop these tortured souls from utterly taking over the system. But the closures are about to end — what then?

One good idea is to have places to bring the homeless besides a hospital or jail. But de Blasio put that initiative under the ThriveNYC umbrella — so it’s failed.

As The City reports, City Hall spent over $100 million to build two “diversion centers” for the mentally ill. But one hasn’t opened, and the other is barely used.

That’s right: Four years after $52 million went to rehab a 14,000-square-foot former IRS office in a graffiti-covered Bronx building into one center, it sits empty. Another $51 million actually opened the operation in East Harlem … this past November. It’s served a scant 45 clients since.

In short, conventional progressive thinking fails miserably at soft as well as tough love. Pray that the next mayor breaks from this foolishness.

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Opinion

The wrong time to enforce the new plastic-bag law

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The wrong time to enforce the new plastic-bag law

Sometimes, officials are too eager to move after a media exposé. Case in point, the reaction of the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reporting by The City that no grocery or bodega had been fined for ignoring the new ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

Boom: Within hours, DEC announced it had issued 12 violation notices, to nine small businesses and three larger entities, including grocery chain Gristedes.

Hello: There’s a pandemic on, adding to the dangers of (already unsanitary) reusable bags and leaving residents, especially in lower-income areas, even more dependent on the closest-available food store.

The DEC, in short, had every reason to just issue written warnings (64 as of April 14) and hold off on fines. But now it has vowed to get tough, including $250 to $500 fines for ignoring warnings.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants some good press, he should loudly order the DEC to return to its policy of mercy. Tell the environmental activists to hold their whining until the pandemic is over.

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Opinion

Eric Adams is the right choice for NYC

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Eric Adams is the right choice for NYC

The Post’s endorsement of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for mayor on Monday has sparked considerable attention, with key figures joining in backing him. Below is a roundup of what they’re saying.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.: “Eric Adams will be a great mayor for the city of New York. I’m glad The Post agrees about having someone with Eric’s career and life experience informing him about how to fight for all New Yorkers.”

Diaz has been an increasingly important force in Democratic circles in the city whose endorsement will carry much weight.

Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan: “New York City is the nation’s economic engine and the fuel for that engine lives in the so-called ‘outer boroughs.’ Indeed, nearly 75 percent of all New York City essential workers live in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Eric Adams knows this, and that’s why he will be a mayor keyed in to the communities, like the one I represent, that are at the edge of the city geographically but at the core of what makes our city run.”

Brannan represents moderate and diverse working-class communities in Brooklyn that could help propel Adams to victory.

Henry Garrido, executive director, DC 37: “There is no candidate more aligned with what our members believe in and stand for. The soul of our city is at stake. We need a mayor who understands the plight of the essential workers who kept this city running and the struggles working people face. That’s Eric.”

There’s no way to overstate the importance of support from unions like Garrido’s. Not only will many of his members take a cue from him, but so will voters who back unions and watch their endorsements carefully.

Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jake Lemonda: “Like The Post, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association believes Eric Adams is the right choice to lead the city out of these trying times because he offers the best chance of solving the issues bedeviling the entire city.”

Lemonda’s statement can help drum up support for Adams among the uniformed rank and file in the city. Adams’ service as a police officer will likewise help.

Sheikh Musa Drammeh, head of the National Community Peace Building Commission: “Eric Adams is uniquely qualified and positioned to move the city out of its multi-prong socioeconomic challenges. Despite being knocked down by the pandemic, Adams will bring it back to a new and higher level. He personally understands what poor New Yorkers are going through while also appreciating the contributions of wealthy New Yorkers to our economy. New York knows that Eric Adams is the right leader we need now.”

Sheikh Drammeh has led various efforts forging ties between Jews and Muslims as well as improving police-community relations.

David Gold, a consultant and former Wall Street banker: “Eric believes in New York and its future. Wall Street likes him because he is a man with a plan who sticks to it and cares about our city. We need to feel safe on the street, in the subway, in all of our boroughs, and importantly, people should be comfortable coming to New York. We need Eric Adams because New York is at a critical point — our next mayor will be instrumental in making sure we thrive. That should be Eric Adams.”

Gold knows Adams through his work supporting first-responders as well as widows and children of those who have died in the line of duty. His support may signal to Wall Streeters that Adams is no left-wing radical who’ll let the city fall to ruin and force the financial industry to flee.

Jenny Sedlis, who has headed the pro-charter-school advocacy group StudentsFirstNY: “We’re at a moment in public education where we can’t afford to take good ideas off the table. Eric Adams is not beholden to ways of doing things just because it’s how they’ve been done before; he’s committed to putting the needs of students front and center. New York City needs a mayor like Eric Adams who will fight for every student to have access to excellence and opportunity, no matter their zip code.”

Sedlis is fundraising for Strong Leadership NYC, a pro-Adams independent expenditure committee. Her decision to back him will strike a note with parents throughout the city who care about getting a good education for their kids but can’t afford private school.

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