WASHINGTON, D.C. — COVID-19 cases are surging across the country and the coronavirus is no longer mainly impacting older Americans, but rather, younger.
"In our ICUs, we're seeing younger people intubated who are very sick or who are on the floors and are very sick,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious diseases professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “That should be a gigantic wake-up call."
Another wake-up call: researchers at a consortium of universities and institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, just completed their seventh round of COVID-19 case projections. It is something they have worked on since the start of the pandemic.
“What we're trying to do with this is really fill the gap of that longer time span – so, looking out six months,” said Dr. Shaun Truelove of the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub.
The hub fast forwards to what the virus might bring for the country in cases and in deaths by the end of the year.
In the best-case scenario, which is a high vaccination rate coupled with a variant with low transmission, COVID-19 cases only rise by 3 million through the end of the year, along with an additional 32,000 deaths.
- Current U.S. COVID-19 cases – 33.6 million
- Jan. 1, 2022 case projection in U.S. – 36.5 million
- Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths – 605,362
- Jan. 1, 2022 death projection in U.S. – 637,984
However, that best-case scenario runs into two problems. First, COVID-19 vaccination rates right now are stagnant.
“The challenge we're seeing now is that vaccination is slowing down because of uptake, issues of hesitancy, people not being willing to get vaccinated,” Dr. Truelove said.
The second problem is the delta variant is highly transmissible and the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S. now, accounting for 83% of all cases in the country.
“What we're seeing because of that, and because of this stagnation of vaccination, is that we do expect there to be some resurgence in the fall,” Dr. Truelove said.
In the worst-case scenario researchers looked at, which would include lower vaccination rates and a highly transmissible virus like the Delta variant, COVID-19 cases rise much higher: by more than 7 million through the end of the year. There would also be more than 95,000 additional COVID-19 deaths, which is triple the number of the best-case scenario.
- Current U.S. COVID-19 cases - 33.6 million
- Jan. 1, 2022 case projection in U.S. – 40.8 million
- Current U.S. COVID deaths - 605,362
- Jan. 1, 2022 death projection in U.S. – 700,635
Researchers say what all of this means is the more people who choose to get vaccinated the less likely the worst-case projection – and many more deaths – becomes a reality.
“While these resurgences are not necessarily to the same level that we saw in winter 2021, they are substantial enough to be concerned about and aware of,” Dr. Truelove said.
It’s information that researchers hope will reach those who need to hear it.