The takeaway: How best to prepare?
Dr. Dowdy agrees that Europe’s current troubles might not necessarily mean a major new winter surge in the United States.
But he also points out that cases are beginning to head up again in New England, the Midwest, and other regions of the country that are just experiencing the first chill of winter.
“After reaching a low point about 3 weeks ago, cases due to COVID-19 have started to rise again in the United States,” he says. “Cases were falling consistently until mid-October, but over the last 3 weeks, cases have started to rise again in most states.
“Cases in Eastern and Central Europe have more than doubled during that time, meaning that the possibility of a winter surge here is very real.”
Even so, Dr. Dowdy believes the rising rates of vaccination could limit the number of Americans who will be hospitalized with severe disease or die this winter.
Still, he warns against being too optimistic, as Americans travel and get together for the winter holidays.
None of us knows the future of this pandemic, but I do think that we are in for an increase of cases, not necessarily of deaths and serious illness, Dr. Dowdy says.”
“People need to realize that it’s not quite over,” Dr. Truelove says. “We still have a substantial amount of infection in our country. We’re still above 200 cases per million [and] 500,000 incident cases per week or so. That’s a lot of death and a lot of hospitalizations. So, we still have to be concerned and do our best to reduce transmission … by wearing masks, getting vaccinated, getting a booster shot, and getting your children vaccinated.”
Johns Hopkins social and behavioral scientist Rupali Limaye, PhD, MPH, adds that while COVID vaccines have been a “game changer” in the pandemic, more than a third of Americans have yet to receive one.
“That’s really what we need to be messaging around — that people can still get COVID, there can still be breakthrough infections,” says Dr. Limaye, a health communications scholar. “But the great news is if you have been vaccinated, you are very much less likely, I think it’s 12 times, to be hospitalized or have severe COVID compared to those that are un-vaccinated.”
Dr. Topol agrees, adding: “Now is the time for the U.S. to heed the European signal for the first time, to pull out all the stops. Promote primary vaccination and boosters like there’s no tomorrow. Aggressively counter the pervasive misinformation and disinformation. Accelerate and expand the vaccine mandates …
“Instead of succumbing to yet another major rise in cases and their sequelae, this is a chance for America to finally rise to the occasion, showing an ability to lead and execute.”
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