BY JOSEPH CHOI – 06/15/22
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have hit a plateau of around 100,000 new cases per day with little indication on whether they will rise or fall in the coming weeks and months of summer.
The current wave of cases began in April with the spread of the BA.2 “stealth” variant. Cases began to hover at the 100,000 per day mark in mid-May.
Previous waves in the U.S. have typically declined a few days after reaching a peak, but the current plateau has now lasted more than a month.
For the past few weeks, cases have undulated only slightly up and down and public health experts say this trend may be indicative of what we can expect going forward.
“I do think that there will be ups and downs, but I think they’ll be increasingly less dramatic. The highs won’t be as high and I don’t think the lows will be as low, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
At this point in the pandemic, around 66 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated — including about 77 percent of adults.
At the same time, most restrictions on behavior once common during the pandemic have been lifted. Fewer people are isolating and more people are going to events and restaurants. Masks are largely a thing of the past.
Globally, COVID-19 cases and deaths have been trending downward, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The global decline in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths is continuing. Reported cases and deaths have now both fallen more than 90 percent from their peaks earlier this year. This is a very welcome trend,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
In the United States, hospitalizations also rose during the most recent wave of new cases, though not nearly as high as during the three preceding waves.
This development can also probably be attributed to vaccinations, boosters and the availability of antivirals like Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck and Ridgeback’s molnupiravir.
While the BA.2 wave appears to be locked in place, other variants have continued to crop up, such as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron strain. An increase in cases stemming from these strains have been observed in numerous European Union countries and the U.S., indicating that they may soon become the dominant variants.
Limited data suggests that the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are not associated with more severe illness when compared to BA.1 and BA.2. It remains to be seen whether these strains could lead to another rise in cases.