The Covid pandemic has resulted in massive loss of life and an unprecedented economic crisis with far-reaching social impacts. Governments around the world are striving to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their healthcare system.
Mutations in the genome of Covid have resulted in several variants of Coronavirus, including the currently spreading Delta variant. In particular, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health research institutions shows that the Delta variant is highly contagious, even more than twice as contagious as previous variants.
Covid vaccines offer hope as an additional tool for fighting the spread of the virus and its variants. The Covid vaccines approved and authorized in the United States have proven effective at preventing severe Covid symptoms and death, including against the Delta variant. However, they are not 100% effective, and the US has still to face ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated’, as President Biden stated recently in a briefing from the White House.
Here’s the current pandemic situation in the US. Furthermore, we will examine the various Covid testing options available.
Covid test reports
As of August 2021, the Covid test report from the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 38,666,040 confirmed cases and 632,983 deaths in the United States. According to data from CDC updated until 27th August, the percentage of positive Covid nucleic acid amplification tests has decreased slightly when compared to the week prior.
While the number of confirmed cases in the US was decreasing during the first half of 2021, the number started to grow again from July 2021. The number of deaths also saw a slight increase starting from July 2021. According to CDC data, in the US, new admissions of patients with confirmed Covid are currently at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic for all age groups under 50 years old.
The number of vaccines administered is also showing slight growth rates. The percentage of vaccinated individuals varies according to different age groups. In particular, as of 26th August, 91.7% of people aged 65 years or older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 81.4% are fully vaccinated. 73.5% of individuals aged 18 years or older have received at least one dose, while 62.8% are fully vaccinated. For individuals aged 12 years or older, 71.5% have received at least one dose, and 60.7% are fully vaccinated.
Covid variant situation
As previously mentioned, Coronavirus can change itself through mutations. Some of the variants disappear while others persist. The severity of symptoms and transmission rates are different for different variants. Four variants of coronavirus have been identified until now.
- Alpha B117. First identified in the UK. It spread faster, while also causing severe illness and increased risk of mortality.
- Beta B1351. First identified in South Africa. There are not many reported severe illnesses or deaths with this variant.
- Gamma P1. The variant was first identified in Japan and Brazil. As for the Beta variant, there are not many reported cases with severe illness and deaths.
- Delta B16172. Identified recently in India. It can spread faster than other variants. The Delta variant is known to cause more severe Covid illness.
Covid testing situation in the US
Governments worldwide are working to stop the spread of Covid by increasing testing and vaccination efforts. The US Government is no exception. For example, President Biden declared June 2021 a ‘National Month of Action’, as part of an effort to reach the goal of having 70% of US vaccinated by the beginning of July.
The overall positivity rate over seven days recently updated on the CDC website is 9.71%.
Types of Covid tests
There are mainly three types of Covid tests used to detect coronavirus’s genetic material in the human body. Two of them are diagnostic for active infection, while the third one serves to identify previous infections.
PCR Covid test is used to detect the genetic material or RNA of the virus in the collected samples of nasal or pharyngeal swabs. PCR testing represents the primary Covid diagnostic testing method used in the United States, and it was also used to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002.
The test is carried out at hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, or community-based Covid testing sites. PCR covid test results can be available as soon as 15–45 minutes. However, the samples need to be sent to a laboratory first. Considered the shipment, the Covid test results can take up to three days. A 2021 Cochrane review reported that molecular tests (including PCR tests) diagnosed 95.1% of instances of Covid correctly.
Antigen tests are also diagnostic tests, as they test for specific proteins from the virus called ‘antigens’. This type of test can be referred to as ‘Covid antigen rapid testing’. It detects the coronavirus antigens in nasal or pharyngeal swab samples.
Antigen tests can be performed at pharmacies, hospitals, health clinics, or community-based Covid testing sites. The Covid tests report of an antigen test is usually available in 15–30 minutes.
According to research from Cochrane, antigen tests correctly identified Covid infection in an average of 72% of people with Covid symptoms, compared to 58% of people without symptoms. The research result is limited to individuals that have confirmed Covid infection. Tests were most accurate when used in the first week after symptoms first developed (an average of 78% of confirmed cases had positive antigen tests). This is likely to be because people have the most virus in their system in the first days after they are infected.
Antibody tests are not diagnostic tests, as they look for signs of a previous Covid infection by analysing the presence of antibodies in the person’s body. The human body can take from one to three weeks to develop antibodies against coronavirus. According to a scientific brief from the WHO, 90–99% of individuals infected with Covid virus develop detectable neutralizing antibodies within four weeks following infection. Some research has found that antibodies can persist for at least 5–7 months in people who’ve recovered from Covid.
Antibody testing is done with a blood sample and is also known as ‘serology testing’. It can be performed in a laboratory or with on-site, point-of-care testing. Covid test reports are usually available within one to three days.
The accuracy of antibody testing depends on the time samples are collected after an individual is infected. According to the 2021 Cochrane review, the accuracy of the test increased as time passed. In particular, the antibody tests performed were:
- 30% accurate 1 week after symptoms developed
- 70% accurate 2 weeks after symptoms developed
- More than 90% accurate 3 weeks after symptoms developed
The US is experiencing unprecedented challenges from Covid, especially considering that the long-term outlook of the coronavirus pandemic is still highly uncertain. However, vaccination rates are rising in the US, with 61.8% of the total population partially vaccinated and 52.4% fully vaccinated.
Vaccines and reliable Covid testing both play a significant part in slowing the spread of the virus and its variants. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Wondfo Biotech has been investing its research team’s efforts to continuously develop reliable Covid testing solutions.
As a leading POCT solution provider, Wondfo Biotech offers a wide range of Covid diagnostic solutions, including PCR tests, rapid antigen tests, and antibody tests. The company’s product lines are CE, FDA, and FSC certified. Wondfo’s quality control system complies with ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2012 standards.
Click here to view more about Wondfo’s latest COVID-19 Diagnostic Solutions.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.
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