The last two pandemic summers have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but this season may be different.
Although health experts expect an increase in the number of cases, they say the wave will not be as devastating as the previous two summers, or an exacerbation of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Unlike in the past, the majority of the U.S. population is less immune to coronavirus vaccines, boosters, and previous infections. People have access to antiviral drugs that prevent those who have not been vaccinated from being hospitalized.
However, as immunity is lowered, new options may escape the rest of the protection.
“I know we all want to graduate with COVID, but I don’t think it’s done with us,” the doctor said. Jessica Jasman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology and senior technical director of ICAP at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
What to expect this summer
Coronavirus trends in the spring will tell experts what to expect this summer. After the appearance of the omicron in the winter, the incidence declined sharply, and then began to rise again in the spring.
An analysis of data from USA TODAY Jones Hopkins shows that in April, the pace of work doubled compared to 54,000 days per day. The average death rate dropped to 327 per day, about half of what it was at the end of March.
The month ended with 17,288 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, up from 16,032 at the end of March.
Although the sudden coronavirus makes it difficult to determine exactly what the summer will be like, experts have several theories.
The worst-case scenario is the emergence of a strong variant that does not slow down with vaccines and previous infections, leading to more waves of illness, hospitalization and death.
“The full appearance in the summer really depends on the variant that appears completely. That would be the biggest trigger for us to be excited, “said Dr. Carey Altoff, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The best-case scenario is a low level of transmission and no new options.
Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State University and a public health researcher, expects the situation to improve this summer: a small wave with a slight increase in hospitalizations and deaths across the country.
The areas most likely to be affected by this tumor are those that are not severely affected by the omicron variant, in which people have not yet developed immunity.
“I expect this next wave to be a lot smaller than in January,” he said. “There are communities in the United States that are less susceptible to the virus, so (they) could be more affected by the virus in the next few weeks and months.”
What to expect in the long run: Is COVID-19 endemic?
With the exception of the devastating option, many health experts believe that the country could eventually emerge from the acute phase of the pandemic.
It is still far from the endemic phase, when COVID-19 is like the seasonal flu and causes a week or two of suffering, but the risk of severe illness or death is low.
“We’re in the middle,” Jasman said. “I hope we’re going to be endemic, but I can’t say it’s endemic because I don’t feel like it’s predictable.”
For COVID-19 to be considered endemic, scientists need to determine the level of infection, Altoff said. That did not happen.
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“We don’t have an agreed-upon baseline level of COVID that has been in the community for years and decades and for the rest of our lives,” he said. “We need to define what this level is and agree on it as a reasonable level of disease.”
The virus can be considered endemic when it is on a predicted scheme, Jasman said.
For example, health workers can predict when the flu season will begin and end each year, what strains will appear, and how many will occur. SARS-CoV-2 did not show a seasonal appearance.
“We all agree that we are not in a position to predict how much work will be done and where those work numbers will be,” Jasman said. “We don’t know what will happen.”
The endemic virus does not disrupt people’s lives, Altoff said, and it was not with COVID-19.
When people test positive for the coronavirus, they should be isolated from family members, quarantined, wearing a mask, and avoiding travel. Sometimes a person is expelled from school or works from home and has to inform his relatives.
“Is the virus still ruining our lives? Of course it is, ”said Altoff.
Although the virus has not yet entered an endemic phase, health experts hope the country is on its way. The first step is to prevent serious illness, so an increase in cases will not lead to hospitalizations and deaths, Jasman said.
The best way to do this is for Americans to be aware of their vaccines and take mitigation measures to protect their loved ones.
“I hope we are approaching the threshold that will put an end to the increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Jasman said. “We want to go there.”
Contributions: Karen Weintraub and Mike StuckUSA TODAY
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
USA BUGÜN Health and Patient Safety is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Competitiveness in Ethics, Innovation and Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not make editorial contributions.
This article first appeared on USA TODAY: Is COVID Endemic? Experts say what Americans should expect this summer