Preparation, Not Panic: Health Officials Address Next Possible Covid Surge

Preparation, Not Panic: Health Officials Address Next Possible Covid Surge

With another potential covid spike on the horizon, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says the U.S. has tools in place to weather the coming months of covid ebbs and surges. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says the BA.2 omicron strain will likely become dominant but does not appear to cause more severe disease.

Surgeon General: No Need To Panic Over Latest Covid Spike In Europe

“Our focus should be on preparation, not on panic,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday in discussing the latest rising wave of Covid-19 cases in Europe. The emergence of a new subvariant has led to a steep rise of cases in Britain, Germany, Finland, Switzerland and other European nations in recent weeks. While the United States has not yet seen a noticeable increase, experts warn that a spike in cases is pretty much inevitable. (Cohen, 3/20)

And Dr. Anthony Fauci says a major surge is unlikely —

The New York Times:
Fauci Predicts Uptick In U.S. Cases From BA.2 Subvariant 

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on the pandemic, predicted on Sunday an “uptick” in coronavirus infections similar to the current increase in Europe, despite the current decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. It is “no time at all to declare victory, because this virus has fooled us before and we really must be prepared for the possibility that we might get another variant,” Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And we don’t want to be caught flat-footed on that.” While anticipating a new rise, Dr. Fauci said that at this time he does not expect a surge. (Jewett, 3/20)

The Hill:
Fauci Says US Unlikely To See Surge From New COVID-19 Variant 

Fauci said while appearing on ABC’s “This Week” that the new omicron strain is about 50 to 60 percent more transmissible than the first omicron strain, adding that it could take over as the dominant strain in the U.S. However, he noted that the strain does not appear to cause more severe illness or evade immune responses from vaccination or prior infection. (Choi, 3/20)

In related news —

The New York Times:
Another Covid Surge May Be Coming. Are We Ready For It? 

Scarcely two months after the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case numbers to frightening heights in the United States, scientists and health officials are bracing for another swell in the pandemic and, with it, the first major test of the country’s strategy of living with the virus while limiting its impact. At local, state and federal levels, the nation has been relaxing restrictions and trying to restore a semblance of normalcy. Encouraging Americans to return to prepandemic routines, officials are lifting mask and vaccine mandates and showing no inclination of closing down offices, restaurants or theaters. (Mueller, 3/19)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The Next COVID Wave In Georgia? Omicron BA.2 Subvariant Gains Steam

Lately, there’s been good news about COVID-19 in Georgia: The number of people hospitalized for COVID reached its lowest point in eight months on Friday, and new coronavirus infections are also at the lowest level since early December before omicron shifted into high gear. But public health experts say despite those encouraging trends, infections in Georgia could climb again because of BA.2, a subvariant of omicron gaining traction here and across the country. “Every time the cases come down, I feel relief. It feels great, and to be able to do things you were not comfortable doing before,” said Dr. Jesse Couk, an infectious disease doctor at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “But we have to look ahead, and this is why we are so focused on Europe. We see this wave in the distance and we don’t know what will happen here.” (Oliviero, 3/18)

USA Today:
BA.2 COVID Variant: What To Know About New Omicron Strain In The US

A new COVID variant, first detected two months ago, is making its way across the U.S. and spreading more quickly in the Northeast and West, new data released this week shows. The BA.2 variant appears to be on its way to becoming the dominant COVID strain, having roughly doubled each week for the last month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2 is considered by the World Health Organization as a “sublineage” of the highly transmissible omicron variant. It’s a different version of omicron than BA.1, which was responsible for the surge that hit the Northeast late last year. (Fallon and Snider, 3/18)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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