After months of declining COVID cases, the numbers are now beginning to surge upward again in the United States, where half of the states are seeing a rise in infections and hospitalizations. In addition, experts are warning of a possible winter surge after seeing a 14% increase in cases in the middle of November.
Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York, told CNBC the cold winter months and the holiday season are “the perfect storm” for COVID cases to increase.
The good news is experts don’t expect anywhere near the number of cases there was last winter before the vaccine was available. However, it’s still essential that people do everything to keep themselves and those around them safe from COVID.
Tips to staying safe during the holiday season
- Get vaccinated to provide protection to yourself, the medically vulnerable, and very young children who can’t be vaccinated.
- Even if you’re vaccinated, always wear appropriate, snug-fitting masks indoors in public places or outdoors with large groups.
- Stay away from crowded and poorly ventilated places, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.
- If you’re sick or symptomatic – even if you have tested negative for COVID – opt out of social gatherings.
- If you’re notified you’ve had contact with someone who has COVID, get tested right away, and don’t spend time around others until you’re sure you’re not infected.
- If you were vaccinated early in the rollout of the vaccine, get a booster shot to reduce the chances of breakthrough infection.
- Don’t attend any gathering with unvaccinated people unless they’ve been tested and are negative for the COVID virus. Even then, it’s best to wear a mask around them and to ask them to wear one as well.
The CDC website has more information about how to stay safe over the holidays.
Where will the infection rate be highest?
While some states have maintained low levels of infections due to large numbers of vaccinated and immune people, others – particularly in the colder states in the upper Midwest and Northeast – are seeing an uptick in cases and hospitalizations that are causing problems in understaffed hospitals and health clinics.
“The real question is, how big will it get and will it be substantial?” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told NPR. “And my sense is in New England, it’s going to hit a wall of vaccinated people … I think the Midwest and the Great Plains – which have lower vaccination rates but have not seen a big delta surge – they may very well end up seeing quite a few infections in the weeks and months ahead.”
States that had high rates of COVID during the summer, including Texas and Florida, will likely not see a significant surge in cases since there’s a high level of immunity among their populations. However, breakthrough cases are a concern for vaccinated people or, in some cases, those who’ve previously been infected with COVID, so everyone should follow safety precautions in those places as well.
The COVID pandemic is not over, so follow the recommendations of experts to prevent the spread of the virus this holiday season.