Will There Be a COVID Surge This Fall and Winter?

COVID winter.

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Key Takeaways

  • Health experts are expecting another COVID surge this fall and winter due to waning immunity from vaccines and more people spending time indoors. 
  • If a surge occurs, health experts say COVID cases may not be as severe because of vaccines, booster shots, antiviral treatments, and immunity from previous infections. 
  • People should get the latest bivalent booster and practice other health protocols when necessary to prevent a potential surge.

It’s that time of year again when many of us will be swapping out our swimsuits for sweaters. Whatever you may be doing to transition to the fall and winter, health experts say you may also want to brace yourself for another surge of COVID-19 cases. 

White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, said the United States could potentially see 100 million new infections this fall and winter.

“People are indoors more. They are closer in contact with each other and so in general we do expect a surge this fall and winter,” said Dana Mazo, MD, MSc, a clinical associate professor specializing in infectious diseases at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Booster uptake, emerging variants, and public behaviors might all affect COVID-19 case rates as the weather gets colder. Here’s what you should know about the potential wave of COVID cases this fall and winter and how to protect yourself from getting infected.

Will COVID Cases Be Less Severe Compared to Previous Seasons? 

Natasha Bhuyan, MD, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, said it’s important to remember that COVID-19 can manifest differently in individuals even if the circulating variants are milder.

“In particular, for people who are immunocompromised, older age, or have chronic conditions, COVID continues to be a threat and we must remain vigilant,” Bhuyan said.

However, compared to the beginning of the pandemic, experts say we do have more available protection, such as vaccines, antiviral treatments, and immunity from prior infections.

“The hope is that cases should be less severe because we have built up immunity,” Mazo said.

What Could Help Prevent a COVID Surge?

Although the U.S. is in a much better place because people are getting vaccinated and boosted and treatments are widely available, Mazo said it doesn’t mean that additional health precautions should be ignored. People should stay up-to-date on recommended vaccinations and practice other health protocols.

“The big thing is to get the new bivalent vaccine to protect yourself because, remember, protecting yourself will help to decrease the surge,” Mazo said.

The new bivalent boosters are designed to protect against both the original COVID-19 strain and Omicron BA.5, which has been responsible for most of the current cases in the U.S.

Mazo recommends taking other precautions, such as getting tested for COVID if you’ve been exposed, wearing a mask in crowded indoor areas, and washing your hands properly.

In addition, you should assess your own health risks and remain vigilant about transmission rates in your community to decide what safety measures you’re comfortable with.

“If we do see rates rising, this can be an indicator to modify our own behaviors,” Bhuyan said. “Once again, consider masking, ventilation at social gatherings, and in some instances, avoiding very large indoor gatherings.”

What This Means For You

Health experts predict there will be a surge in COVID cases this fall and winter. However, cases are expected to be less severe compared to previous seasons because of resources like vaccinations and treatment options. It’s recommended that people get the new bivalent booster shot and follow other health protocols to prevent a potential surge.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.