With COVID-19 cases on the rise in the US, virus experts aren’t sure how bad it could get. “Any look at the metrics at the local, state or national level is a gross undercount,” says Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, housed at the Rockefeller Foundation. “Everyone now knows someone who gets COVID.” Here’s what virus experts say could happen next. Read on – and don’t miss these to protect your health and the health of others Sure signs you already had COVID.
As new COVID-19 variants and sub-variants cause a cycle of infection spikes, some experts recommend wearing masks year-round. “I believe masks are needed in crowds, on airplanes and in airports, and in areas with poor ventilation.” says Peter Gulick, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. “If you are outdoors, masks are not needed, but indoors, especially with a lot of people, you must wear a mask. I was at the gym working out and there were a lot of people there but I was the only one wearing a mask. Any immunocompromised patient or patient over the age of 50 should wear more, not less, to stay safe.”
Concerns have been raised that home testing could mean many more people are infected than the data would represent and that there is less information on which populations are most at risk. “When we’re at a point where our telescope is pointing at a completely different part of the sky, we have less understanding of what our case numbers mean and what we’re missing.” says Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University. “The fact that we’re now doing less testing in people on lower incomes worries me that we’re missing surveillance in possibly one of our highest-risk populations.”
Virus experts are concerned that a lack of testing around the world could hamper the ability to contain new variants. “Due to the reduction in testing and sequencing in many countries, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know where the virus is and how it mutates,” says World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Vaccines could be updated to protect against new variants, experts predict. “Yes, vaccines are subject to change, and Moderna would like to have a bivalent vaccine for Omicron targeting both the original strain of the virus and the variant by the fall,” says dr Gulick. “Other companies are trying to develop a vaccine that may cover more variants. I think we will probably need yearly booster shots like we get for diseases like influenza and change them according to the variants that are prevalent at the time. We need more data on our immune system and memory cells to see the full picture of how our immune system stores information about omicron variants, either through natural infection, a vaccine, or both.”
“We have very, very few ICU admissions. We have really few deaths. And we probably have a very high level of immunity because omicron has infected so many people, vaccination is moderately high, and a number of people are being boosted.” says Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “We’re in good shape and will remain so through the fall and winter, when immunity has plummeted or until a nasty new variant emerges.”
Follow public health principles and help end this pandemic no matter where you live – get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible; If you live in an area with low vaccination rates, carry an N95 face masknot travelling, maintaining social distance, avoiding large crowds, not going indoors with people you cannot find refuge with (especially in bars), practicing good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, do not visit any of these 35 places where you are most likely to contract COVID.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for bringing science and research-backed information to a wide audience. Continue reading