This Is When We Can Expect the Next COVID Surge, Experts Say
New variants of the virus will likely cause another spike in cases in the next few months.
The U.S. has seen COVID cases trending downwards nationwide for almost all of 2021. But despite the good news, experts are continuing to warn that the pandemic is far from over, even though there has been an increase in the pace of vaccinations. Now, some are predicting that we might even see another COVID surge as springtime approaches. Read on to see when exactly experts fear numbers will go up once again, and for insight into where case numbers are climbing, check out These 5 States Are Seeing COVID Cases Rise Again.
There's fear the U.K. variant could cause a spike in cases in April or May.
Experts have been warning since December that the new highly contagious U.K. variant of SARS-CoV-2, known as B.1.1.7, could fuel another major spike in cases. Now, some say a timeline is emerging—and it's coming soon.
"It's going to increase in the spring," Trevor Bedford, PhD, a virus expert from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said during a briefing on Feb. 23, according to CNN. "It could result in more of a wave in, say, April or May than we would have expected otherwise." And for more on when we might all actually be able to put the PPE away, check out This Is When the COVID Pandemic Will Be Completely Over, Experts Say.
Other experts on the panel also worried about a "fourth wave."
Bedford wasn't alone in his prediction: other experts taking part in the briefing also expressed concern that the spread of B.1.1.7 could easily lead to another surge. As of Feb. 23, the variant has spread to at least 45 states and totaled 1,881 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"With the newly infectious variants, I think it is going to be difficult to prevent a fourth wave altogether," Josh Schiffer, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Fred Hutch, said during the briefing. And for more on what could keep you safe, check out If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From Severe COVID.
Public health measures and vaccines are vital for avoiding another surge.
However, Bedford was optimistic that certain mitigation efforts would have a big impact on how long any surge would last. "I still do suspect that things will be brought under control in the summer, and there will be very little virus circulating," he predicted. He argued that vaccinations would be the most effective way to control any future spikes in cases. "We do want a lot of vaccines and strong robust immunity from those vaccines," he said.
But while Bedford noted that basic health protocols such as widespread use of face masks and social distancing could help keep things under control while immunizations are rolled out, he still warned it was possible that yet another new surge could arrive next autumn. And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
A White House COVID adviser recently warned the next 14 weeks could be the "worst of the pandemic."
In addition to Bedford and his colleagues predicting a bump in new cases, other health experts have recently raised concerns that the variants might bring some of the darkest days yet. During an interview with CBS's This Morning on Feb. 15, Michael Osterholm, PhD, a member of the White House's COVID advisory board, issued a stark warning: "The next 14 weeks I think will be the worst of the pandemic."
He continued: "People don't want to hear that, but if we look at what these variants are doing, particularly this one from the United Kingdom, and see what it did in Europe, see what it's done in the Middle East, it's now beginning to start that here in the U.S. We are going to see that unfold." And for more on how you can keep yourself safe, check out If You See This on Your Mask, the FDA Says Toss It Immediately.