COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are steadily rising nationwide, suggesting a winter surge may be near. At present, however, the duration, magnitude and scope of such a surge is still unclear, experts told The Atlantic.
In the last two weeks, COVID-19 cases have jumped 56 percent, while hospitalizations have risen 28 percent, according to data tracked by The New York Times. Wastewater surveillance data, which can be more consistent than case counts, point to a similar trend. Of the more than 1,300 U.S. testing sites tracking virus levels in wastewater, 65 percent reported an increase, and 38 percent are seeing some of the highest levels since December 2021.
Daily COVID-19 hospital admissions are also projected to increase nationwide over the next four weeks, with 3,100 to 14,300 new daily admissions likely to be reported on Dec. 30, according to the CDC’s ensemble forecast from 15 modeling groups. As of Dec. 7, the nation’s seven-day average of new hospital admissions was 4,864, up from 4,419 the previous week, CDC data shows.
At the moment, the only definitive thing experts know is that cases and hospitalizations are rising. Overall, experts generally agree that any such surge will be less severe than those of previous years. Beyond that, experts said it’s still unclear how large the surge will be, how long it will last and whether it will be national or more regional. Some experts are also hesitant to call the current uptick in cases an official surge, as the trend is still so new.
“I’ve not seen a big enough change to call it a wave,” Susan Kline, an infectious disease expert at the Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota Medical School, told The Atlantic.
Other experts predict the upcoming holiday season — combined with factors such as waning immunity and low booster uptake — will accelerate virus spread, spurring a sustained increase in cases and hospitalizations.
“I think it will continue,” Gregory Poland, MD, a physician scientist who studies the immunogenetics of vaccine response at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, told The Atlantic. “We will pour more gas on the fire with Christmas travel.”