May 10, 2022 – Rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could mean we’re in a new phase of the pandemic. The number of Americans dying from COVID-19 is also expected to rise, although the short-term surge isn’t expected to be the same as in previous waves.
That’s the conclusion of a team of experts at Johns Hopkins University, who told reporters on Tuesday that in the short term, this new surge is not expected to be as severe as previous waves. But, they say, that could all change.
Cases have tripled in the past few weeks, while COVID-19 has led to a 25% increase in hospitalizations, said David Dowdy, MD.
Dowdy predicts the death rate will also rise. Those numbers typically follow hospitalization rates for a few weeks, “but we’re not going to see them spike,” he said.
Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said COVID-19 is still killing an average of 300 Americans a day, so we’re not over the pandemic. “People are still dying from Covid-19 and we can’t rule out a big wave in the next few months.”
On a more positive note, Dowdy said the average COVID-19 case is getting milder over time.
“It’s probably more because we as a group are building up immunity, rather than because the variants necessarily become milder on their own,” Dowdy said.
While good news for most people, he added, “This means that for those who have not been vaccinated, have not developed immunity or have weakened immune systems, the virus remains a very dangerous and deadly disease. virus.”
Epidemiologists rely heavily on numbers, and Dowdy concedes that given the increase in home testing, the results of many tests are unclear, making case counts less reliable at this point in the pandemic. But, he added, no data source is perfect.
“Hospitalizations aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly better than the current number of cases. Mortality is still useful, but a lagging indicator,” he said. New methods, such as wastewater monitoring, could also help monitor the pandemic.
“None of them are perfect, but when they trend together, we can feel a new wave is coming,” Daudi said.
Sometimes people in the same household experience the pandemic differently, from not getting sick to mild or even severe illness.
Dr. Priya Duggal, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said at the briefing that there could be many reasons for the difference. Differences in exposure, immune response, pre-existing conditions, and household ventilation all play a role. A person’s general health can also determine their ability to fight infection, she said.
“In a way, we also just need to maintain a certain level of respect for this virus, recognizing that we may be sicker than those around us,” Doughty said.
More cases in milder weather?
Asked if we’d face a summer surge that would require a return to precautions like masks and quarantines, Dowdy said: “It’s important for us to realize that in some ways we’re already in the midst of a surge. “
He said there are signs that the U.S. is now at about the same level of coronavirus transmission as we experienced in the delta wave, and almost as high as the surge in the first winter of the pandemic.
“We’re seeing a small uptick, but it’s not the same as the big upside we’ve seen in some of the previous waves,” Dowdy said.
“I think that’s encouraging in some ways. We’re starting to see a disparity between the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations and deaths,” Daudi said. “But it’s also a bit frustrating that we’ve been through all this and we’re still seeing an upward trend in hospital admissions.”
Dowdy added, “So we’ve seen a surge. I think it remains to be seen whether that will require us to go back to stricter policies.”