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The U.S. on Wednesday reported more than 200,000 Covid-19 cases as multiple lines of the highly infectious omicron variant of the coronavirus for the first time since February, according to a tracker operated by Johns Hopkins University, while the country is in the midst of another growing one wave of infection.

Important facts

As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported a total of 208,383 new Covid-19 cases — the highest since Feb. 11 — along with 943 deaths, according to the JHU tracker.

Experts fear the US could be on the cusp of a sixth wave of infections fueled by omicron subvariants, the Associated Press reports.

During a White House briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urges local governments to encourage mask wearing in public places and other mitigation strategies like increased testing to prevent another wave across the country.

Walensky noted that the nation’s Northeast, East Corridor, and Upper Midwest regions are seeing increasing cases and hospitalizations, an area home to nearly a third of the American population.

At the same briefing, Dr. Ashish Jha, the coordinator of the White House Covid-19 task force, said the “use of rapid tests is a very effective way of keeping infections down” because people can test themselves before attending a large gathering or Meeting people who are vulnerable.

Jha also called on Congress to allocate additional funds to buy adequate vaccinations for all Americans once new-generation Covid-19 vaccines become available in the fall or winter.

Big number

50.9%. That’s the percentage of Covid-19 cases in the US caused by Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant last week, according to surveillance data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The rapidly growing BA.2.12.1 subvariant now accounts for 47.5% of cases, while different variants of omicron cover nearly 100% of all US cases.

Crucial quote

“Variants will continue to emerge as the virus circulates around the world… We can keep virus levels at the lowest possible levels, which is the best way to avoid variants.” Because the less replication, the less mutation; the fewer mutations, the fewer variants,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease official. He added that vaccines “continue to provide strong protection against serious diseases.”

key background

Even as Covid-19 cases have risen in parts of the US, local officials have been reluctant to reintroduce mask requirements or other forms of restrictions. Earlier this week, New York City’s Democratic Mayor Eric Adams said the city is “not at the point” where it will reinstate measures like mask mandates or requiring vaccination cards. However, the city has issued an advisory urging people to dress up voluntarily indoors and raised the virus alert level to High. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu also noted that the city does not plan to enact a mask mandate, instead recommending people to wear them. In February, the CDC updated its guidance on mask-wearing, recommending it only in areas that report high levels of severe cases.

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A third of the US should consider masks, officials say (Associated Press)

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