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Here's When the COVID Rise is Coming Next

This is what experts think will happen.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID-19 cases are decreasing across the U.S., but scientists are warning that a new surge is highly likely. "Rising Covid cases in Europe, the toll Omicron is taking particularly on unvaccinated elderly people in Hong Kong and slowing vaccinations are warnings that another wave of infections is likely approaching the United States," says Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "But we are by no means helpless. We can prepare better, save lives and reduce disruption." Here is when the next surge of COVID-19 will happen, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


BA.2 Is Spreading Quickly

Patient refuses to take vaccination.

With BA.2 causing an uptick of infections in the U.K. and Europe, it's only a matter of time before the subvariant makes an impact on the U.S. "The risks for the United States are clear," says Dr Frieden. "BA.2 is increasing and will likely soon account for most new cases in the country. Masks have come off and approximately 60 percent of Americans, including more than one third of people above age 65 — more than 15 million seniors — are not up-to-date with vaccination. This doesn't mean that BA.2 will inevitably cause a deadly surge. But it does mean that cases may increase soon, and that unvaccinated and under-vaccinated elderly and medically vulnerable people could face a deadly threat."


People Need To Be Prepared For New Surge

Syringe with vaccine medicament injection for vaccination inoculation cure health and research stuff.

Experts are warning there needs to be a plan in place for when the next surge inevitably arrives. "[There is] a real and credible risk that there could be another surge coming, and we just need to make sure people are aware of this and that we have plans in place to respond to make sure that we're not back in the middle of all this again in a month," says Samuel Scarpino, mathematical epidemiologist and managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute. "I think the signs are all pointing towards there being a surge of BA.2 in the U.S., but what we're seeing in Europe has just started to happen over the past week and a half – so it's still early days, which means there's a lot of uncertainty. There are more unanswered questions about this than any previous variant."


Prepare For Surge With Vaccinations and Boosters

Doctor vaccinating female patient in clinic.

With cases dropping and pandemic rules being relaxed, experts want to use this period of relative calm to prepare for the next surge. "You use the quiet periods to do the hard work," says Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "You don't use the quiet to forget."

"We should be reading about how the federal government is using its resources to go nursing home to nursing home, and church to church, to get booster numbers up," says Dr. Scarpino.

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Social Media Could Predict Next Surge

young woman in fedora drinking coffee at airport
Shutterstock / frantic00

Scientists are using social media to predict when the next COVID-19 surge could happen, by (legally) tracking people's travel combined with the latest numbers about infected and susceptible populations. "People may mask up and social distance when they go to work or shop, but they may not adhere to social distancing or masking when spending time with friends," says Morteza Karimzadeh, assistant professor of geography at CU Boulder. "When it comes to forecasting at the county level, we are finding that our models perform, hands-down, better than most models out there."

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South America and BA.2

sad woman wearing a face mask looking through the window

Although Europe usually shows an uptick in new cases before the U.S. does, some virus experts believe the pattern could change—and the virus could spread faster—if the next variant comes from South America. "If the next variant starts in Brazil, then it's far more likely to go to the U.S. before it comes to Europe," says Graham Medley, infectious-disease modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We're all following each other."

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How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan