- Experts say the current surge in new COVID-19 cases is unlikely to ease anytime soon.
- They say the contagious Delta variant combined with the reopening of businesses and well-attended events is fueling the surge.
- Experts predict that COVID-19 will be a part of daily life in the near future, with new variants appearing periodically.
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New COVID-19 cases are averaging around 70,000 per day. Hospitalizations and COVID-19-related deaths are also on the rise.
However, some experts say we’re not yet at the peak of the current COVID-19 surge.
“I wouldn’t count on it. We’ve been surprised so many times before, and obviously the public health authorities wouldn’t have eased lockdown and opened things up most recently in the U.S. from last month if they saw this surge coming,” Dr. Dean A. Blumberg, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis, told Healthline.
“Early on it was clear that it was activities that lead to surges. The biggest wave that we had in the U.S. was in December and January related to travel for holidays as well as it being winter, so facilitating viral transmission,” he said.
“This [current] surge is likely related to two factors: one is the easing of lockdowns, and so people have had more interactions, and every interaction is another opportunity for [a] transmission event to occur,” Blumberg said.
The other factor, he said, is the more infectious Delta variant.
Dr. Aruna Subramanian is a clinical professor of infectious diseases at Stanford University in California. She said it’s likely there will be some surges in the future, but their severity is hard to predict.
“I expect that COVID-19 is going to become endemic, so we may see little bumps of cases every now and then,” she told Healthline.
“I don’t know how much more of a full-fledged surge there will be. That really depends on whether new variants take off and how much of the world is vaccinated, and whether new variants come to us from places that don’t have access to the vaccine, or places like in the U.S. who don’t want to get vaccinated. There’s many factors to that,” Subramanian said.
“At some point it will be under control, but really it is to be seen how severe will those endemic cases be,” she added. “Will it just be like the common cold every year? Would it be more like the flu, or is it going to be more severe? That’s hard to know because it’s hard to predict how the virus will change and what variants will come about.”
In the past 2 weeks, the average number of vaccine doses administered per day has jumped from 200,000 to 730,000.
“We are having increasing vaccination rates,” Blumberg said. “Some people are being prompted to get the vaccine because of the surge that is currently ongoing, and if you combine the people who are immune from vaccination with the significant number of people who are likely immune from previous infection, we may be getting to a period where we might have limited community transmission when cases are introduced.”
He said it’s likely the coronavirus will continue to mutate as the pandemic progresses, and new variants will arise.
“That should be expected that there should be continued evolution of the virus, and that there should be continued variants that develop that are more efficiently transmitted that result in higher concentrations of virus and that become predominant strains in communities and might escape vaccine-induced immunity or immunity that was acquired from prior infection,” Blumberg said.
“That should be the expectation that we see, and that may happen in the U.S. due to the infection in unvaccinated individuals, where we know you get higher viral load, so that gives more opportunity for these variants to emerge,” he added.
Subramanian said there are many options for preventing future surges.
“Wearing good masks, having good ventilation when you’re inside and in large groups, and, of course, vaccination. Then, when symptomatic testing and avoiding going to work and being around other people when people are sick,” she said.
Both Subramanian and Blumberg agree COVID-19 is unlikely to be eradicated anytime soon.
“When I think of the future of living with COVID, I think of living with influenza. We’re not going to eliminate it. I don’t see how that’s going to happen. We’re going to have to learn to live with it,” Blumberg said.