This Is Exactly When We'll See the Next COVID Surge, Experts Warn
The spread of new strains of the virus will likely bring a wave of cases in the coming weeks.
After months of record-breaking levels of coronavirus cases nationwide, the U.S. is finally witnessing a decrease in outbreaks from coast to coast. And with vaccinations picking up the pace, many are hopeful that the end of the pandemic could be well within reach. But the worst may be yet to come: Experts are warning that another surge of COVID cases is looming, and we'll likely see it in the weeks ahead. Read on to find out when they think the next wave could begin, and for another dark look at the future, COVID Researchers Just Issued Their Bleakest 2021 Prediction Yet.
The next surge could be felt in "six to 14 weeks."
While some officials are breathing a sigh of relief over the recent downward trend in reported cases, others have expressed concern that the change might actually be the result of the post-holiday surge plateauing. More importantly, the recent spread of highly contagious mutated strains of the virus has many worried that yet another wave of cases will come crashing down within the next few months.
"The fact is that the surge that is likely to occur with this new variant from England is going to happen in the next six to 14 weeks. And, if we see that happen, which my 45 years in the trenches tell me we will, we are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country," Michael Osterholm, MD, a White House COVID adviser, told NBC on Jan. 31. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Experts warn there's a "hurricane" of cases coming.
Osterholm went to explain that the sudden decline in cases could lead to a false sense of security, comparing the imminent surge in cases to an approaching storm. "You and I are sitting on this beach, where it's 70 degrees, perfectly blue skies, gentle breeze, but I see that hurricane—Category 5 or higher—450 miles offshore," Osterholm told host Chuck Todd.
"Telling people to evacuate on the nice, blue sky day is going to be hard. But I can also tell you that the hurricane is coming," he warned. And for more insight on the future of the pandemic, These Places Will Close Next, White House Adviser Warns.
The surge in cases could affect vaccination efforts.
The warning comes as the vaccine rollout, while picking up speed, is experiencing a shortage of supplies needed to give recipients the two doses required for full protection. As a result, Osterholm warns it may be necessary to change prioritization to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the population can get their first shot before the new strains cause cases to spike.
"We still want to get two doses in everyone, but I think right now in advance of this surge we need to get as many one doses in as many people over 65 as we possibly can to reduce serious illness and deaths that are going to occur over the next weeks ahead," he said. And for essential vaccine guidance, If You're Over 65, You Shouldn't Get This New Vaccine, Experts Warn.
Tried and true coronavirus safety measures still matter.
Vaccinations may be the long-term solution to the pandemic, but experts are quick to remind the public that this is no time to give up on the everyday protective measures that have kept them safe so far. "Despite the falling numbers, now is not the time to let up on the basic precautions," Megan Ranney, MD, an emergency physician, warned during an interview with CNN on Jan. 31. "Wear a mask, avoid indoor unmasked gatherings, and of course, wash your hands and try to maintain a distance from others when possible." And for more on the coronavirus mutations, If You Have These 4 Symptoms, You Might Have the New COVID Strain.