Could the U.S. See a New Covid-19 Surge?
A subvariant of omicron is spreading across Europe. How will it hit the U.S.?
A rise in Covid-19 cases throughout Western Europe has some officials wondering if the U.S. is due for a new surge. Here’s what the experts are saying:
Cases climb in Europe
In the U.K., France, and across Western Europe, infections have sharply risen through March. Last week, Germany reached a new daily record of nearly 300,000 cases, while it’s estimated that one in 20 people in the U.K. are now infected.
Throughout the pandemic, a surge in Europe has typically preceded a similar rise in the U.S., putting public health experts on high alert.
The threat of BA.2
A subvariant of omicron, called BA.2, is fueling the outbreak overseas. Researchers estimate it’s between 30 to 50 percent more contagious than the earlier version of Omicron (BA.1), but is not thought to cause more severe illness. What’s still not clear is if a case of BA.1 — which infected millions of Americans this winter — provides protection from BA.2.
Where do we stand in the U.S.?
Case numbers stateside have continued to drop, but BA.2 is making up a growing percentage of infections. The subvariant accounted for 23 percent of all new cases in the U.S., according to CDC data from mid-March. The rates are higher in the Northeast — and in Connecticut BA.2 is already thought to be the dominant strain.
What do the experts expect?
The subvariant’s impact in the U.S. will depend on a number of factors — from how much states and cities relax mask-wearing and other pandemic precautions in the coming weeks to rates of natural immunity, experts say. Still, given how contagious BA.2 has proven to be and how much lower vaccination rates are in the U.S. compared to countries like Germany and the U.K., some experts are predicting a rise in infections.
Dr. Fauci said Sunday on ABC’s This Week he expects an “uptick” but not a surge. It is “no time at all to declare victory,” Fauci said. “And we don’t want to be caught flat-footed on that.”
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