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What is a COVID-19 flare?

The novel coronavirus may never go away, and it might come in ‘flares’ instead

Electron microscope shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab.
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab.
NIAID-RML via Associated Press

Coronavirus vaccinations continue to happen throughout the United States, bringing case numbers even lower and lower. In fact, the United States recently hit COVID-19 case levels not seen since the start of the pandemic — a sign the COVID-19 vaccines are working.

But “COVID flares” could soon become a real issue the United States has to deal with.

‘COVID flare,’ explained

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert who works at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, recently told Nexstar that he doesn’t see COVID-19 ever really going away.

  • “Until vaccine equity is established, until people are not hesitant about the vaccine, this won’t go away,” he told Nextar.

He said COVID-19 isn’t the type of disease that will go away with so much vaccination. It will continue to circulate for years to come, he said, according to ABC27 News.

  • “It’s going to stay around and have flares,” Chin-Hong said.
  • “Unless we vaccinate everyone at the same time, you’ll have flares,” he said. “And every time you have a flare, there’s the possibility of creating variants.”

Will COVID-19 become seasonal?

Experts have long suggested the novel coronavirus will become a seasonal virus, even with the COVID-19 vaccine existing, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • “By now we can expect the coronavirus to become seasonal,” said Ralf Bartenschlager, professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, at Heidelberg University, according to SciTech Daily. “Thus, there is an urgent need to develop and implement both prophylactic and therapeutic strategies against this virus.”

One study from September 2020 suggests COVID-19 would become a seasonal illness like influenza, which also has a vaccine but is a normal sickness people suffer from, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

Other research — like a study from the journal Nature — found COVID-19 could become a yearlong illness we always have to battle.

  • “Environmental factors such as humidity and temperature don’t appear to affect the coronavirus as much as other viruses, which flourish more in the dry, cold months of winter,” per WebMD.