Why the Start of Summer Could Mean A COVID Tsunami

Key Takeaways
  • New cases of COVID-19 have increased 61 percent over the past 14 days according to The New York Times COVID tracker. This surge in cases is likely due to increased travel and contagious sub variants, leading to a rise in reinfection rates. 

  • There are many steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Wearing a mask while indoors, testing before and after travel, and getting vaccinated are all steps you can take to lower your chances of contracting COVID-19. 

  • As COVID-19 cases rise across the country and employees return to the office, many employers want to be prepared. Offering testing for employees can stop a COVID surge before it starts. 

COVID Cases are Rising With The Temperature

As the FDA continues to authorize more boosters for COVID-19 vaccines, the spread of infections across the United States is accelerating. 

This month, communities across the Northeast and Midwest are nearing medium and high COVID-alert levels again. In New York City, officials are debating the introduction of a mask mandate for public indoor places (1); in Illinois, those masks are returning to some Chicago-area schools (2)

The New York Times’s COVID tracker shows that nationwide, new cases of COVID have increased 61 percent over the past 14 days. In fact, most officials expect the real number of cases to be even higher, due to advancements in how people complete rapid tests at home. While the hot spots are still primarily located in the Northeast and Midwest, cases are rising fastest in Mississippi, Missouri, Arizona, and Louisiana.

COVID “Waves” Often Coincide With Holidays

This isn’t the first time the country has seen spikes in cases when the emergence of a new strain coincided with times of increased travel. When the omicron variant first appeared in late November 2021, it was the heels of the delta variant, and it spread rapidly because of Thanksgiving, holiday and end-of-the-year travel, and other factors like more time indoors. 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is reporting studies that suggest more contagious sub variants of omicron are spreading, leading to many first-time COVID cases but also frequent reinfections (3).

In fact, early evidence suggests that COVID reinfection is more likely than ever before due to omicron, with a shortened window of time when one has protection from a previous infection.

Vault’s National Medical Director and former White House physician Dr. Jennifer Peña, says this could be the result of Spring Break.

“It’s understandable that after more than two years of this pandemic and many people vaccinated, families are feeling free to return to travel. Mask mandates have disappeared along with testing requirements – it’s all an encouraging sign to those who are ready to travel again and see family,” said Dr. Peña, National Medical Director at Vault Health. 

“The spread of these infections could be the natural result of the new subvariant of omicron, spreading during Spring Break travels as well as the consequence of reduced vigilance by the general public.”

Dr. Peña says with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, often seen as the unofficial start of summer, it’s critical people continue to follow best practices of masking, getting vaccinated, and regular testing.

“Just because you don’t need that mask anymore, doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to wear it in certain scenarios. And if you are traveling, or attending large gatherings, make sure to get tested before and after. These new strains are more contagious than ever. Infection numbers are rising. And some of us have let down our guard.

“But with only roughly two-thirds of people in the US fully vaccinated, we should not let down our guard. None of us want to see summer 2022 ruined because of a tsunami in COVID cases.” 

How Employers Can Prepare For This Surge

The rise in cases is also prompting many employers to continue offering testing in the workplace. Jess Southwell oversees client success for employers who use Vault Health as their COVID testing partners. She says in recent weeks she’s seen a sharp increase in orders.

“Employees have been heading back to the office across the country, and now with the start of summer and the rise in COVID cases, many employers are simply saying they want to be prepared to stop any spread of COVID in the workplace,” said Southwell. “They’ve seen how much easier it is to quickly limit the spread through a range of testing options, whether it’s by offering testing onsite, or sending employees home with tests. Either way, they know it’s important to keep offering testing since it’s simply not top of mind for people anymore.” 

 

References

 (1) Daily COVID Briefing: As N.Y.C. approaches the high alert level for the virus, the city recommends but doesn’t mandate masks. (2022, May 16). New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/05/16/world/covid-19-mandates-vaccine-cases

(2) Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Masks Return to Some Schools, State Averaging 6K Cases Per Day. (2022, May 16). NBC-5 Chicago. https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/illinois-coronavirus-updates-masks-return-to-some-schools-as-cases-rise/2833573/

(3) Muller, Madison. (2022, May 13). You Could Catch COVID Again. And Again. And Even Again. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-13/can-i-get-covid-twice-covid-surges-again-in-us-with-reinfections-rising

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.