“We have to expect that we will see an increase. It is difficult to say whether it will be a minimal speed bump or something a little more serious,” said Lover. “I certainly think we should prepare and be pleasantly surprised if it does not happen. “
The United Kingdom has seen an increase in both cases and hospitalizations, while numbers in the US have been declining from the peaks in January.
Other European countries have also seen COVID-19 return, including Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Greece.
“I think people need to be moderately concerned, and maybe it’s time to be careful,” said Justin Lessler, a public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I would definitely like to put that mask away from me twice. It may make sense to keep these precautions a little longer.”
Matthew Fox, professor of epidemiology and global health at Boston University School of Public Health, said in an email: “We should be vigilant.”
He said that what he was “really focused on” is not about [cases] go up because we will see more waves but a) whether it is big waves or small and b) whether they are associated with increases in admissions as in previous waves. If they are associated with less hospitalization, it may mean that we have reached a stage where we are just monitoring things. If they are not, we may need more action. “
Experts also point to wastewater monitoring data collected from across the United States by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data are considered as an early warning signal for increases in the case of COVID-19. More than one-third of nationwide collection sites experienced an increase in SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels over a recent 15-day period.
Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, has posted tweets about the rises in recent days, saying: “The next wave in Europe has begun” and warns: “What happens in Britain and Europe will not happen . “
“Based on increases in European cases, the US may see a new increase in COVID cases during the spring,” tweeted Andy Slavitt, a former White House pandemic adviser, on Monday, suggesting that the highly transmissible Omicron sub-variant BA.2 drives growth.
Asked about Slavitt’s tweets at a media briefing in the White House On Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki said authorities have been following BA.2 closely. “We currently have around 35,000 cases [reported daily] in this country. We expect some fluctuations, especially at this relatively low level, and it will certainly increase. “
She stressed that “the tools we have – including mRNA vaccines, therapeutic agents and tests – are all effective tools against the virus,” but also warned that continued funding was needed to combat the pandemic. The Biden administration has warned that funding for future booster shots, new treatments and testing efforts will soon run out if spending legislation remains firm in Congress, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a member of Pfizer’s board, has been happy about the future. He tweeted on Monday: “While we are likely to see some flattening in the decline in daily cases and possibly a brief increase in new cases – due to rising BA.2, relaxed mitigation and some declining immunity – it is unlikely to be the start on a new rise, and prevalence should resume declining over the summer. “
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s best infectious disease doctor, told CNN that U.S. officials were “eagerly interested” in what was going on in Britain.
He told the network that he had spoken to his British colleagues, and they attributed it to a combination of three factors, which in order of contribution were: the emergence of BA.2, the reopening of society and people’s declining immunity from vaccination or previous infection.
“Without a doubt, opening up society and getting people to mingle indoors is definitely something that contributes, as well as the overall waning immunity, which means we really need to pay attention and keep an eye on the pattern here,” Fauci said. “So that’s why we see this very closely.”
BA.2 has grown in prevalence in the United States and accounts for 23.1 percent of cases nationally per year. March 12, according to CDC estimatesand 38.6 percent in New England. Across the United States, pandemic restrictions have also been lifted in the wake of the winter wave.
Concerns about declining immunity from shots have sparked discussions about the possible need for extra booster shots. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Pfizer planned to seek permission to other boosters for those 65 and older.
William Hanage, an epidemiology professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said what is happening in Europe provides a “glimpse of a possible future.”
He said it was “reasonable to suggest that … we’re going to see an increase at least in some places,” but it was not clear whether BA.2 would sweep across the nation, as the original Omicron did .
“The only thing I’m very prepared to predict is that places with large amounts of unboosted, unvaccinated older people will have a much more impactful experience with BA.2,” he said.
In Massachusetts, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen since the peak earlier this year, but the decline has fallen.
Levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detected in wastewater after a sharp drop have been fluctuating at a relatively low level.
What should people do in anticipation of a BA.2 increase?
Lessler said: “I hope this is not going to be a big deal for the US, but the signs from Europe are certainly worrying. And if it seems like something is going on, the same things have always kept us safe , things that will work now. ” Wearing masks, avoiding mass gatherings and being vaccinated “are still the best things to do,” he said.
Martin Finucane can be reached at [email protected].