This Is When the Delta Surge Will End for Good, Virus Expert Says

Not only that, it could also be the “last major surge” in the U.S.

For many, all of the tragic losses and uncertainty of the past year and a half have made it feel as though the COVID-19 pandemic can't end soon enough. Unfortunately, a surge in cases brought on by the Delta variant has extended the timeline some experts predicted for putting the virus behind us. But as a summer defined by a spike in infections gives way to fall, some experts are arguing that there are signs the Delta surge will end for good in a matter of months. Read on to see when it's predicted the variant will finally begin to vanish.

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Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the Delta surge will end for good by Thanksgiving.

Closeup of multi generation family having Thanksgiving dinner. There are two senior couple and a mid 20's couple having a big feast, sharing food and love.

During a Sept. 26 interview with CNN, Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was asked about the trajectory of the pandemic now that new infections appeared to be falling after the summer spike. "Nationally, cases are falling because it's being driven by sharp drops in the south where the Delta has really run its course," Gottlieb told anchor Pamela Brown. "You're now seeing the virus migrate to other parts of the country—the Midwest is experiencing a surge in infection, the Pacific Northwest as well, and the Northeast I don't think is impervious to a Delta wave of its own. So I don't think this has run its course [yet]. This has been a highly regionalized epidemic from the very beginning."

But the former official then offered a prediction on when we may finally begin to put the worst of the surge behind us, saying: "I think by Thanksgiving, it's probably going to have run its course across the whole country."

Gottlieb also predicted that this could be the last major surge of the entire pandemic.

A young woman putting on a face mask while walking down the street

Gottlieb went on to explain that the combination of a high level of people who have received at least one dose of vaccine and a larger portion of the population with exposure to the highly contagious variant meant that the virus had fewer people it could infect. He even went so far as to suggest it could be the final significant spike of the pandemic.

"On the back end of this Delta wave, I do think this is the last major surge of infection, barring something unexpected like a new variant coming along that pierces the immunity offered by vaccination or prior infection," Gottlieb said. "So prevalence should decline on the back end of this Delta wave, and hopefully we get back to more of a semblance of normalcy, especially when vaccines hopefully will be available for children as well."

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The Northeast may be one of the last places to feel the effects of the Delta surge before it goes away.

People wearing their masks

But besides his optimistic outlook about the coming months, Gottlieb still warned that some areas of the country could see one last flash of the virus before it began to fade away. "I think the big question mark is whether the Northeast is going to see its own surge of infection," he said. "There's a presumption that because of the high vaccination rates and high prior exposure from previous waves of infection that it's somewhat impervious to a big wave of infection. I'm a little bit more skeptical: I think you're still going to see a wave of infections sweep across the Northeast as kids go back to school and they become sources of community spread, as people return to work, [and as] the weather gets cold and people move indoors."

However, Gottlieb added that cases would fall to a more "manageable" level as around 80 percent of the population had some level of immunity. "We're going to start to transition from the pandemic phase of this virus—at least here in the United States—to a more endemic phase where the coronavirus becomes a persistent threat, but you're not seeing levels of infection quite the same way that you've seen them in the past year and a half," he said.

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Other experts have also recently predicted that the pandemic could fully wind down by spring.

A woman wearing a winter jacket and hat takes her face mask off on a city street.

While Gottlieb may have predicted the end of the last surge, other experts have recently estimated that the pandemic itself could be winding down soon, too. In a Sept. 23 interview with Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that significant changes in production capabilities meant that companies could address the lag in global vaccine equity much more quickly in the coming months, Reuters reports. When asked about how long it would take for the pandemic to end and for life to return to normal as a result of this development, he replied: "As of today, in a year, I assume."

Like Gottlieb's argument, Bancel explained that even with vaccine hesitancy in some areas, the pandemic would likely slow down as more of the public gets exposed to the virus. "Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious. In this way, we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu," he predicted.

But while natural immunity might help slow down the spread of COVID eventually, the Moderna CEO advised those who had access to shots to get them for their own safety. "You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don't do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in the hospital," he cautioned.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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