Be aware that a summer surge of COVID may resemble a cold, but it is not.

Be aware that a summer surge of COVID may resemble a cold, but it is not.

Americans Experience Fourth Summer COVID-19 Surge

COVID-19 Surge

For the fourth consecutive summer, Americans are facing another surge of COVID-19. This surge is characterized by a rise in hospital admissions, emergency room visits, test positivity rates, and data from wastewater analysis 1. However, experts suggest that although this surge may be concerning, most cases are unlikely to be severe, and it is not expected to be long-lasting 2.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testing rates have increased, but they have not reached the levels observed during the peak of the public health emergency earlier this year 3. Caitlin Rivers, an assistant professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, stated that there are early signs of another wave, but the future is uncertain 4. However, she finds encouragement in the fact that this surge does not seem to be driven by a new variant of the virus 5.

While gene sequencing company Helix has observed a 30% to 40% rise in COVID-19 cases since June, it should be noted that the numbers were relatively low before this recent increase 6. Shishi Luo, associate director of bioinformatics at Helix, explained that their data indicates a mild uptick in cases since late June, possibly due to increased travel and indoor gatherings during the summer, coupled with the waning immunity over time 7.

As immunity wanes over time, it could play a role in the severity of illness and the number of people requiring hospitalization 8. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, suggests getting the new booster for the XBB variant, which is expected to be available in September 9. Osterholm believes the new booster will likely provide better long-term protection, and he plans to get it as soon as it becomes available 10.

In order to prevent infection spread, it is recommended to get tested as soon as possible if feeling ill or planning to be in a crowded area 11. Rivers stated that while she does not wear a mask in public when cases are low, she does wear one when traveling on an airplane or using public transportation 12.

Interestingly, wastewater data from Biobot Analytics, a CDC partner, has consistently shed light on transmission trends 13. Despite the rise in cases, the concentration of coronavirus particles detected in sewage samples this year is about one-third of what was found last year 14. Furthermore, the growth of virus particles in wastewater has slowed down in recent weeks, suggesting a possible future decrease in cases 15.

In addition to COVID-19, CDC data indicates that adenovirus, norovirus, and rotavirus are circulating at higher levels this summer compared to last year, further complicating the situation for Americans 16.

Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing surge, it is important to remain hopeful and continue following public health guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus. Ensuring timely testing, wearing masks when necessary, and staying informed about the availability of booster vaccines can all contribute to individual and community resilience against COVID-19.


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