The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning about a potential surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations during the summer months. As more cases are being reported and emergency room visits increase, concerns are mounting over a possible resurgence of the virus.
Nationwide, COVID-19 related hospitalizations have risen by 12% in the past week, with some areas, like Navarro and Freestone counties in Texas, experiencing a staggering 25% increase in just one week, representing a more than tripling of hospitalizations.
Dr. Leana Wen, a medical analyst at CNN and an emergency physician, explains that the rise in cases during the summer follows a recurring pattern observed over the past four years. She notes that gatherings indoors during hot weather, as well as larger group gatherings around holidays, may contribute to the increase in infections. Wen emphasizes that the current surge is not due to the emergence of a new variant, as all existing variants are derived from the omicron strain that first appeared in 2021.
For individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, Wen advises continuing with their normal routines, as they are less likely to experience severe illness. However, she cautions that they may still contract the virus.
Wen recommends that older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions ensure they are up-to-date with their booster shots. She suggests discussing illness response strategies, including the potential use of antiviral treatments like Paxlovid, with healthcare practitioners. High-risk individuals are advised to consider wearing well-fitting, high-quality masks in crowded indoor spaces, especially during travel. Opting for outdoor dining and carrying at-home COVID-19 tests while traveling are also recommended precautions.
The updated booster, specifically targeting the XBB variants of omicron, is expected to be available in late September or early October. Wen suggests that while many can wait for this booster, high-risk individuals who missed the bivalent booster released in fall 2022 may consider obtaining it after consulting with their healthcare providers.