(CNN) — Recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a Covid-19 surge could be underway this summer, though not as significant as in previous summers. . By some measures, the number of coronavirus infections is rising, along with test positivity, emergency department visits and, most alarmingly, hospital admissions.
Why might this increase be occurring? How concerned should people be? What preventative measures make the most sense? Who should consider changing plans, including summer travel? And how could all this impact the return to schools, which is already taking place in some parts of the country?
To guide us through these questions and more, I spoke with Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, ER Physician, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. She previously served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.
CNN: Why might there be an increase in coronavirus infections right now?
Dr. Leana Wen: We are now in the fourth summer of the coronavirus pandemic. Every summer so far, the United States has seen a spike in covid-19 cases. Part of this may be due to the cyclical nature of the coronavirus: we’ve seen a spike in cases, followed by a relatively calmer period, followed by another spike. This may well be the pattern in the future, with two or more such waves of infections each year.
One reason for the increase in cases during the summer, specifically, may be that people gather indoors when it’s very hot. This could also explain why there are increases in infections during the holidays, when people gather in larger groups indoors.
It is important to note that this current increase does not appear to be driven by the appearance of a new variant. According to the CDC, all existing variants are offshoots of the omicron strain, which first emerged in late 2021.
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CNN: How concerned should people be?
Wen: It depends on the individual and his personal and medical circumstances.
Those who are generally healthy and have had covid-19 or been vaccinated, or both, are unlikely to become seriously ill if they contract the coronavirus. While Covid-19 infections carry the possibility of long-term symptoms, and some people continue to choose to prioritize avoiding infection, many others have decided that, as long as they are well protected from serious illness, they want to resume all pre-infection activities. pandemics. People in this category should know that if infections are increasing, they are more likely to contract the coronavirus, but they probably do not need to change their day to day because avoiding infection is no longer their goal.
Those who should consider taking extra precautions are people who are vulnerable to severe results. That includes older people and patients with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic lung, kidney and heart problems. These people need to make sure they are up to date with their reinforcements.
These people should also talk with their health care providers and find out what to do if they contract the coronavirus. Patients should ask if they are eligible for Paxlovid, the antiviral treatment, and where they can access it. If they are not eligible, what are the alternatives? People who are at especially high risk of infection and those who prioritize avoiding Covid-19 altogether should also consider wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask (ideally an N95, KN95, or KF94 mask) while indoors crowded
CNN: Could we see a return to mask-wearing for everyone?
Wen: No, I don’t think so. Top-down requirements like mask mandates should be reserved for true emergencies, which the US is not in right now.
With that said, I want to emphasize the effectiveness of wearing a mask in a unidirectional way, which means that someone who wants to protect themselves can do so by wearing a high-quality mask, even if other people around them are not wearing one. People who are at high risk of severe illness and who otherwise do not want to contract COVID-19 should wear a face covering to reduce their risk of contracting the coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses.
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People walk in Gantry Plaza State Park in New York City on May 30, 2020. (Credit: Alexi Rosenfeld/G