The U.S. is still experiencing a decline in COVID following the surge brought on earlier this year by the fast spread of the Omicron variant over the winter months. In just the last week, new infections dropped more than 16 percent and hospitalizations fell by more than 27 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But experts are not convinced this trend is going to continue. In fact, many are warning about the possibility that the U.S. will soon get hit with a new COVID wave. And if that happens, certain states might feel the heat sooner than others. Read on to find out where experts expect the next spike in cases to happen first.
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COVID infections are rising once again in some countries, largely driven by BA.2, a new subvariant that is often referred to as a “stealth” version of Omicron. NBC News reported that nearly half of all European countries have experienced increases in new COVID cases recently. Over the last two weeks, new reported infections have increased by 60 percent in the U.K., 88 percent in France, and 67 percent in Italy, according to The New York Times.
And experts have already warned that the U.S. is likely to follow this trend. According to USA Today, there have been at least five instances in the past two years of coronavirus cases spikes in Europe followed by a similar rise in the U.S. a few weeks later. “We’re learning a lot about the next wave that’s going to happen in the U.S.,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, told the news outlet. “It’s going to happen. It’s unavoidable.”
The BA.2 variant is slowly increasing in force across the U.S., and experts say that its rise will give way to an overall uptick in cases in the country. But not every state is likely to experience that surge at the same time. Jeremy Luban, MD, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told The Washington Post that it is expected for Northeastern states to get the brunt of the next wave first—and sooner than some might expect. In just two or three weeks, “everything in the Northeast is going to be BA.2,” Luban told the newspaper.
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New data from the CDC is showing that the BA.2 subvariant has already become the dominant variant in the Northeastern U.S., Insider reported. This version of the virus accounted for 55.4 percent of samples collected in Health and Human Services Region 1 as of March 22. According to Insider, this region covers Northeastern states such as Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
“We’ve seen about 35 percent of BA.2 across the country. But in the Northeast region, we’ve seen it at about 50 percent,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said on March 24, per ABC-affiliate WPVI in Princeton, New Jersey. “It is one of the reasons we’re watching so carefully.”
The potential of rising cases isn’t great news, but some experts are cautioning people against worrying too much about this next wave. During a March 22 Washington Post Live event, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said that it is likely the U.S. will see a rise in cases similar to what is happening in Europe right now because our country is also experienced increased dominance of BA.2 alongside a relaxation of restrictions and waning immunity. But he doesn’t think we’ll see a wave similar to what Omicron brought.
“I would not be surprised at all, if we do see somewhat of an uptick,” he said. “The extent of it and the degree to which it impacts seriousness of disease like hospitalizations and death remains to be seen. I don’t really see, unless something changes dramatically, that there would be a major surge.”
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