Ukraine, Ruben, Nipro discussed on All Things Considered

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They had no electricity They said they were getting water from a stream It says Mario bowl no longer exists There is no place to go back All the houses are destroyed Finally they managed to get out in a convoy earlier this week and it took them three days to get here Last night they slept on the floor of a restaurant They have no idea what they're doing next where they're going to go And Ruben off says they're worried that nowhere in Ukraine is now safe They are afraid that everything that is happening on the eastern part of Ukraine is soon going to be here the same in nipro And as I'm talking to them and they're recounting Mario pole they're both of them were starting to cry And then Ruben off says something about nipro being their honeymoon and at first I think he's joking but then he tells me no they got married on February 22nd two days before the Russian invasion And then they spent a month hiding from the shelling in mariupol And now they're here out in the sunshine sitting by the river and they laugh and say no this is our honeymoon right now That's NPR's Jason Bobby and a nipro Ukraine Jason thank you for your work You're welcome Daniel The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States as a whole has been on the decline in recent weeks And in many places mask mandates and other restrictions are being dropped But at the same time a new COVID variant has been spreading across the country BA two is a sub variant of omicron the variant behind the biggest spike yet of the pandemic just a couple of months ago So how should we be thinking about COVID as we enter yet another new phase in the pandemic To help us answer that we called Bill Hannity He's an epidemiologist and a professor at Harvard's TH Chan school of public health Doctor hannon's welcome Thanks for having me on the show Of course So first of all let's start with some basics Tell us more about this BA two variant How does it differ from the original omicron variant And is it more contagious Does it cause more severe illness Well the first thing to remember is the BA two is a different sub variant of BA one which is the original immigrant They're both army cron it's just their different flavors of it But BA two is actually quite divergent from the virus that was causing a lot of disease here a couple months ago It's very different indeed We don't really understand where these two came from My own bet is on a long-term infection in an immunocompromised host But because BA two is really quite different We have to be watching it very closely because we're still learning about its epidemiological properties And among those properties it does appear to be more transmissible even more transmissible than the omicron that we've seen to date I want to bring this down to the individual level because there are a lot of people listening who have had their two vaccination shots plus a booster but they got that last shot at this point several months ago So should those people be more worried as we have this new variant moving among us and as there's the potential for booster effectiveness to wane The booster effectiveness certainly does seem to weigh in against infection It seems to be pretty well preserved against severe illness Now I want to put a small caveat on that which is that because things are changing very very quickly we might be waiting a couple of weeks to actually get really secure data on this But right now it doesn't look like BA two is much more serious in terms of the disease it causes than BA one But the best thing that you can do as an individual and in particular for your over 65 years of age is to make sure that you're fully up to date with your shots that you've been boosted That's the very best thing that you can do in the face of a virus like this One more thing I want to ask about boosters what do you think about the reports that the Biden administration might be considering approving additional boosters for people over 50 or just for the population in general I think that a fourth booster is probably on the cards and probably on the cards for people who really need it to are going to be the older folks Even beyond BA two we can expect that there's going to be more virus in the fall and the winter And because those people might have a immunity that has waned a little bit we might want to give it a bit of a bit of a Philip in order to help it get through another difficult period with the virus For people as a whole in general I think that three shots is probably about as much protection as you're likely to get But as I say check back with me in a few months And sort of along those same lines people who are more vulnerable or immunocompromised people does BA two make you think that perhaps we should be taking more precautions on their behalf I think that that's certainly true that we shouldn't not forget that there are a lot of people in the United States who have conditions that predispose them to more serious infection if they become infected And if you see a very large surge coming into your community then certainly you should think about your neighbors because even though you might be cool with being infected they might not be And so this is something which should be looking out for your community Well that brings me perfectly to one other thing I wanted to ask you because many states businesses workplaces across the country are relaxing their mask mandates relaxing restrictions that have been in effect for quite a while I'm wondering what is your advice to people listening How should they keep wearing their masks What kind of precautions should they be taking I think it depends on the situation that you're in and depends on how much virus there is on the community at the time I was very little infection then wearing a mask and a lot of circumstances may not be particularly helpful Unless that is of course you are in a particular group who's very concerned about infection and you can have one way masking KF 94s and N95s are very good And people may want to use them because they don't want to get infected And there's a lot of reason people might not want to get them affected They might not want to be having missing their vacation which is coming up just for example So it's roughly the same message as has always been Look at what's going on outside your front door How much viruses are in the community What are the consequences of you or somebody you're in contact with getting sick Are they in a vulnerable group Is it something we can do to wear a mask which is a really easy thing to do seriously Are you really going to the grocery store to feel the fresh air on your face Are you going onto public transport to feel the fresh air in your face I understand that these are things that people can feel people have different attitudes to But then what you can do is make the contacts that you do make the special ones the important ones the things that really matter to you And those things we can get much much of that back even in the face of a virus like this To wrap this all together a final really big question What do you think comes next in this pandemic Right now BA two is becoming the majority of the virus population in the U.S. What that means is that we're going to see a bump in infections How large that bump is going to be well that depends on how much people are trying to stop it It depends on how many people have some immunity already because they were infected with BA one It also depends on in terms of its consequences on how many people are vaccinated and boosted The United States is not very well vaccinated and boosted The UK rode out its earlier omicron wave really quite well We can not say the same for the U.S. between two and three times as many people corrected for population lost their lives You really should be boosted That was Bill hannig associate Professor of epidemiology at Harvard's TH Chan school of public health Doctor hanage thank you so much for speaking with us today Thanks for having me Many Americans change the way they dress for work over the past couple of years And it was easy right Just look respectable on Zoom and wear what's most comfortable otherwise But will it last into this next phase of the pandemic as more.

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