WASHINGTON, D.C. — When it comes to COVID, the summer sun isn’t crossing paths with a massive summer surge just yet, but that could be on the horizon.
“I do think we should be prepared for a summer surge, but I’m somewhat hopeful it won’t have the same impact it has in the past, because of our experience this year, because of our additional vaxxing and boosting,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Inglesby said deaths from COVID remain relatively low compared to last year when it was the third leading cause of death.
“There are still 265 deaths a day on average across the country from COVID, which still makes it still at this point still around the 8th or 9th leading cause of death on a weekly basis,” he said, adding, “Many COVID deaths are now preventable.”
Hospitalizations also remain relatively low when compared to earlier this year during the omicron surge. That is something that Dr. John Segreti noticed at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
“I think the most we ever had was about 150 or so [hospitalizations],” Segreti said. “During the omicron surge, we went up to about 140. So having 10, 15, 20 people in the hospital just doesn't feel like much.”
While COVID testing sites are still around, many people are turning to at-home tests and not reporting the results, which may be skewing the COVID numbers and creating an undercount of cases.
“Even in January of this year, when there weren't a lot of home tests, people just weren't getting tested,” Segreti said. “So, I think we've always undercounted the total number of cases, but the hospitalizations are a much more objective number and a much harder number.”
To avoid ending up hospitalized or worse, experts still recommend masking up in crowded spaces, making sure areas are well-ventilated, and getting both vaccinated and boosted.
“It is far better to get immunity through vaccination and boosting than getting it from having to get it by going through an infection,” Inglesby said.
As for a potential summer surge, Inglesby said it may still be too early to tell what might shake out this season.
“I think we are in what appears to be a plateau – not all plateaus stay plateaus,” he said. “We’ve experienced in the last couple of years times when numbers appear to level off and then, for one reason or another, started to go up again.”
It is something he warns we could also see change with a fall or winter surge of COVID.