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What will the pandemic look like this summer? Experts weigh in

Although COVID-19 infections have dropped from the winter, some parts of the country are seeing an uptick in cases. What will the pandemic look like this summer?

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Doctors report COVID-19 patients are experiencing mild symptoms.

Illustration by Zoe Peterson, Deseret News

Since the beginning of the year, COVID-19 cases have dropped “dramatically,” from up to 800,000 cases per week to around 30,000 per week. Dr. Anthony Fauci said last month that while Americans are in a controlled phase — not threatened by a full pandemic — the pandemic isn’t exactly over, according to Time magazine.

Numbers have dropped from the omicron surge this past winter, but what will the summer look like in terms of COVID-19 infection? Experts have some theories.

A third COVID summer: Infection rates may fluctuate, but the worst-case scenario would be the emergence of a variant that isn’t deterred by immunity from vaccinations or previous infections, Keri Althoff, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told USA Today. The best case would be a low level of transmission and no new variants.

  • Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State University, believes areas that weren’t hit as hard by the omicron variant will see higher infection rates this summer.
  • “In the U.S., there are communities that have had less exposure to this virus, and so (they will) likely have a large impact from the virus in the next few weeks and months,” Swann told USA Today.

Are we prepared for another variant if there is one? Trends are showing that cases are slowly creeping up in some parts of the country, with some cities reinstating regulations and mask mandates.

  • Right now the pandemic is under control and the outbreaks aren’t as rampant as previous ones, but if a new variant emerges, we may not be prepared as a country, due to the decline in COVID-19-related regulations and funding, according to Time.
  • The pandemic will still continue to threaten those who are frail and immunocompromised, but the likelihood of a large “shift” in variants is unlikely, reported NPR.
  • NPR stated that the virus is mutating more slowly than it previously has, due to vaccinations and improved immunity. We’re seeing omicron mutate more slowly — from 1.1 to 1.2, 1.3 and so on — rather than the drastic viral shift the nation saw last year between the original variant to delta and then omicron.

Is the pandemic over? The pandemic isn’t quite over yet, and it isn’t quite in an endemic stage, either. “Pandemics can take years to settle, and the consequences of widespread illness can last long after new infections fade,” according to The New York Times.

  • Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization Health Emergencies program director, stated that the virus is still too rampant and isn’t even close to being endemic. He said that COVID-19 has not fallen into any seasonal pattern, and is still capable of causing huge epidemics, according to Al Jazeera.
  • “We’re still in the middle of this pandemic. We all wish that we weren’t. But we’re not in an endemic stage,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical lead for WHO, per Al Jazeera.