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Early Signs Of COVID-19 Surge On Its Way

As the U.S. heads for its third pandemic winter, unfortunately, emerging signs of another COVID-19 surge are popping up. Fortunately, the number of infected, hospitalized, and dying from COVID in the U.S. is slowly declining. However, with the holiday near, people spend more time traveling inside, making the virus spread easier.

The first hint of a possible COVID-19 surge is what’s been happening in Europe. Infection numbers have risen in many European countries. “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.”

Several computer models project that coronavirus infections will continue to recede until the end of the year. But researchers stress there are too many uncertainties range the projection numbers. For instance, whether more infectious variants start to spread throughout the U.S. is a factor they review. Scientists notice that the new omicron subvariants are even better at dodging immunity.

“We look around the world and see countries such as Germany and France are seeing increases as we speak,” says Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin. “That gives me pause. It adds uncertainty about what we can expect in the coming weeks and months.”

Researchers don’t know if people’s susceptibility to new subvariants they haven’t been exposed to is the reason for rising numbers in Europe. Plus, there are different levels of immunity in different countries. “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.”

COVID-19 Surge Factors

Some researchers say the U.S. is already seeing signs of a possible COVID-19 surge. For example, virus levels were detected in the country’s northeastern part of wastewater. That could be an early warning sign of what’s coming, though the virus is declining nationally. Also, infections and hospitalizations are rising in some parts of the region, according to Dr. David Rubin. “We’re seeing the northern rim of the country beginning to show some evidence of increasing transmission,” Rubin says. “The winter resurgence is beginning.”

But if a dramatically different new variant doesn’t emerge, the U.S. can avoid a winter surge this year. “We have a lot more immunity in the population than we did later,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, who runs the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health. Another crucial variable that could affect the ct of a rise in infections is how many people get one of the new bivalent omicron boosters to shore up their waning immunity.

The booster uptake in the U.S. is sluggish. About 50% of individuals who are eligible for a booster haven’t received one. In addition, the demand for the updated booster isn’t high. Fewer than 8 million people received one of the new boosters out of the more than 200 million eligible.

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