What will the summer look like for COVID-19?
Variants may keep cases high over the summer. With new research suggesting that the next wave will likely come from Omicron subvariants, which are currently circulating in the U.S. BA.4 and BA.5 are the newer subvariants and can escape immunity from vaccines and past infections. In both people who have recovered from COVID-19, as well as those who have been vaccinated and boosted there was a drop in potency against BA.4 and BA.5, which means they are more likely to cause breakthrough infections. It is likely that more people will be infected this summer, but not necessarily more severe cases or deaths.
South Africa has been ahead of the US in the case of BA.4 and BA.5 and they have had a rise in infections, but not a proportional rise in deaths. BA.4 and BA.5 have shown that they are spreading faster than past subvariants and will likely overcome the others. BA.4 and BA.5 have been able to change enough to help disguise them from our immune system and also restored their ability to bind to cells, so they are able to infect us and are more competitive than past variants. However, the variants really do not follow a rulebook so they can always surprise us. While hospitalizations have stayed pretty low during the current wave, it could still be an unpredictable summer for Covid. The warmer weather and people spending time outside will help, but local surges can also occur when people travel between areas with higher and lower rates of infections. Hopefully, this summer will be even less severe as many more people carry vaccine or infection-induced immunity. For the next few months there is likely going to be a lot of COVID-19 cases.