Will another COVID-19 wave hit the US? Experts raise concern despite retreating cases

Visual Representation for COVID testing
Visual Representation for COVID testing

United States: The health authorities of the United States have raised concerns regarding another new wave of COVID-19, even if the cases have started retreating. The health agencies emphasized that the nation should always be ready to deal with the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

In this regard, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted that several metrics of COVID-19, including hospital admissions and visits to emergency departments (EDs), have witnessed a decline. Meanwhile, the levels of wastewater viral activity are still high, which could lead to both symptomatic or asymptomatic infections. However, the nation has been witnessing a downward trend, except in the South of the US, as per the data by US News.

In addition to this, the health agency has also explained that the activity linked to COVID-19 was lower than the COVID-19 activity seen during the early pandemic. For instance, the weekly hospital admissions recorded this season were at 35,000 – as compared to an all-time record of around 150,000 in January 2022.

Visual Representation for SARS-CoV-2 virus

In this regard, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organisation (WHO) – Maria Van Kerkhove, during an event, mentioned, “The good news of COVID is that the impact of COVID has significantly reduced in recent years, and so we’re not seeing as many hospitalizations, as many ICU admissions, as many deaths,” as per the reports by US News.

In addition to this, she mentioned that the health authorities still count COVID-19 as a “significant burden.” She was quoted saying, “It’s hard to articulate and communicate that we’re in a better situation, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Concerns about long COVID and reinfection

The health authorities have also mentioned that the concern is not just regarding surviving the coronavirus infection but also dealing with long COVID and chances of reinfection.

While addressing the same, Van Kerkhove stated, “This virus is circulating in every country, and people are getting reinfected multiple times.”

She further added, “So we’re not only worried about the acute disease and causing death right away, we’re worried about the post-COVID condition, and we’re worried about repeat infection in the long term – so five, 10, 20 years from now on organ function,” as per the reports by US News.

In addition to this, long COVID and reinfection may once again regain attention in the United States as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to drop its five-day isolation guidance for individuals who test positive for the infection. It is noteworthy that the suggestion has not been approved by the White House – it is expected that it will be floated for public comments in April.  

A new COVID variant – a new threat!

Meanwhile, the health authorities have mentioned that there is always a possibility of the emergence of a new variant – which could change everything. Currently, the JN.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus dominates the world and the United States.

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It is to be noted that during the peak season, the variant was contributing to nine in ten COVID-19 cases in the United States – the estimate by the CDC highlighted. The health agency, however, further mentioned that the burden of COVID-19 was increased by the new variant in the winter season.

The CDC has also been monitoring and tracking a new variant – that was expected to appear in the United States, according to US News. The variant has been scientifically known as BA.2.87.1. Reportedly, only South Africa has reported cases linked to this new variant.

What does the CDC have to say about the new variant?

While emphasizing the new variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commented, “The fact that only nine cases have been detected in one country since the first specimen was collected in September suggests it does not appear to be highly transmissible – at least so far.”

The agency has been keeping an eye on the variant because recent research has shown that it is highly mutated – with more than 30 changes in the spike protein of the virus. The above concern was addressed by the CDC, which stated, “In the past year, several variants have had significant changes in their spike protein. Yet despite those changes, existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections still provides good protection.”

As per US News, the health agency mentioned, “We don’t yet know how well-existing immunity holds up against BA.2.87.1. However, our immune systems now have several years of experience with this virus and vaccines, generally providing protection against a wide range of variants.”

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