As millions of Americans continue to live life as if the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror, experts warn that another surge is on the way as Europe is serving as an example of what to expect.
According to NPR, a new COVID surge in the United States seems inevitable as we begin to enter the winter months and more people spend time indoors which will make the spread of the virus much easier especially with many people ditching masks for personal comfort.
The first hint of what could be in store is what’s happening in Europe. Infections have been rising in many European countries, including the U.K., France, and Italy.
“In the past, what’s happened in Europe often has been a harbinger for what’s about to happen in the United States,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “So I think the bottom line message for us in this country is: We have to be prepared for what they are beginning to see in Europe.”
Though computer models predict that the number of infections will continue to fall as the year winds down, scientists are keeping their eyes on new COVID variants that not only spread easier but also tend to avoid antibodies that the current vaccines produce. Still, that’s not guaranteed to happen as every country has different responses to COVID infections depending on different variables.
That’s because it’s not clear whether Europe’s rising cases are related to people’s greater susceptibility to new subvariants they’ve not yet been exposed to. In addition, different countries have different levels of immunity.
“If it is mostly just behavioral changes and climate, we might be able to avoid similar upticks if there is broad uptake of the bivalent vaccine,” Lessler says. “If it is immune escape across several variants with convergent evolution, the outlook for the U.S. may be more concerning.”
Evidence that levels of infection have already begun to rise in certain parts of the U.S. as the wastewater from states in the Northeast has indicated, but that doesn’t mean the entire country will experience another COVID surge like it was in 2021. Given that many people have not only gotten the vaccine but have already been infected with COVID, chances of a horrible new surge of hospitalizations and deaths don’t seem to be inevitable as they once felt.
Still, doctors and scientists suggest that everyone who’s gotten the vaccine get their booster shots just to be safe, but unfortunately only 50% of people eligible for a booster have gotten one thus far.
Given the likelihood of a surge, it’s critical people are up to date on vaccines, says Nuzzo. “The most important thing that we could do is to take off the table that this virus can cause severe illness and death,” she says.
“There are a lot of people who could really benefit from getting boosted but have not done so.”
Looks like we may be in for a long winter, y’all.
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