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Coronavirus returns just in time for summer vacation

Coronavirus returns just in time for summer vacation
Coronavirus returns just in time for summer vacation

 


As the new coronavirus begins to permeate our daily lives, medical experts are beginning to notice patterns and some changes compared to the first few years of the virus outbreak.

Summer Covid is a reality. This was not the virus outbreak that health officials expected. Of course, there is the winter cold and flu season. Many expected Covid to join other respiratory viruses at that time, but it appears the pattern of Covid is spiking in the winter and then spiking again in the summer as people prepare to go on vacation.

“For the first two years we said, 'Oh, this is just an anomaly,' but now that we're in the third year, it's clear that this is a summer COVID pandemic,” Dr. Helen Chu of the University of Washington School of Medicine told Seattle Now.

Related: Washington state cuts COVID-19 quarantine to 24 hours

“We're heading into the summer surge,” she added. “If you think back to the last few years, we often have a big surge in the winter and then a smaller but still significant surge in mid-to-late summer. So we're heading into that period now.”

Officials began noticing an increase in coronavirus cases in early June.Nationwide and in Washington state, concentrations of the virus in wastewater were getting higher and higher. The CDC currently says levels of COVID-19 infection in the country are “low.” Based on wastewater testing for the virus, Chu reported that virus levels are highest in the Northeast, Florida and California, but “we're not far behind.” As of early June, Washington state saw a slight upswing than the national average.


Caption: COVID-19 concentrations in wastewater tests in Washington state through June 8, 2024.

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Chu said Washington has also seen an increase in emergency room visits due to COVID-19, and while COVID-19 hospitalizations have not increased, she noted those numbers typically lag behind other case surges.

“The summer travel season is fast approaching and you don't want to ruin your vacations, so please remember the things you've been doing – wearing a mask in crowded places and getting tested for symptoms if you're gathering with loved ones, especially those who are vulnerable,” she said.

Staring Washington's Coronavirus DashboardThe surge in COVID-19 cases toward summer 2024 will not be as severe as the pandemic-era surge. Still, it's worth noting for more vulnerable populations, such as the immunocompromised and elderly, Chuse said. Chuse stressed that such groups should stay up to date on booster COVID-19 vaccinations. The booster COVID-19 vaccine scheduled for the fall is designed for the current strain (JN1) that is causing the surge in cases, but vulnerable groups should get the booster shot as soon as possible.

Related: Why Anthony Fauci is treating his visit to the White House as if it were his last

The summer surge in cases is just one aspect of the coronavirus that health experts are starting to pay attention to, but Chu expects the number of cases to continue to rise.

The 2024 disease will have some changes that set it apart from past seasons.

“What's a little bit different from what we've seen in recent years is we're seeing fewer people reporting loss of taste and smell,” Chu said. “We're also seeing a lower percentage of people developing long-term COVID after infection.”

“We know that this virus is not yet stable,” she added. “Right now, we're still learning how to live with it, how our immune systems respond, and whether the population as a whole has long-term immunity that will hold up to the next season. That's why we're seeing these little surges that we see every summer. It may take longer for COVID-19 to turn into a normal seasonal respiratory virus like influenza or respiratory syncytial virus.”

KUOW's Dyer Oxley contributed to this article.

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