U.S. COVID-19 Cases May Decline Over Fall and Winter, Model Says
- A new model suggests that COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States are not expected to increase by March.
- This means the United States could expect a much rosier national image this fall and winter.
- But hospitals can still be overcrowded in states with cold climates or low immunization rates.
The pandemic has thrown its fair share of curved balls, but a new model suggests COVID-19 cases in the United States are not expected to climb higher for the foreseeable future, and COVID-19 deaths are expected to steadily decline.
That means, nationally, the United States could expect a much rosier image this fall and winter.
A model from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers across the United States, indicates that cases could drop from their current average – around 127,000 per day – to around 9,000 daily cases by mid- March. The last time average daily cases fell this low was in March 2020, the start of the pandemic. Dr Anthony Fauci recently told Axios that the United States needs to see fewer than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 per day before the virus no longer poses a threat to public health.
The model also suggests that deaths from COVID-19 could drop from around 2,000 a day to less than 60 a day by mid-March.
The model is an average of nine different projections. He assumes that young children will be vaccinated at the same rate as adolescents once the vaccine is cleared for them, and that Delta will remain the most transmissible variant.
However, a forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts that daily infections – including those that go undetected by testing – could increase in November after falling in October. Even so, forecasts still suggest the daily death toll could drop below 1,200 in January, assuming mask usage remains the same.
“Unless we have another even more transmissible variant, we shouldn’t expect a future increase to be as intense as this one,” Jeffrey Morris, director of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Vaccines for young children could help prevent a major winter wave
Scientists had previously predicted that cold weather and increased socialization indoors during the holidays would increase cases again. But even that probably won’t lead to a dramatic winter wave like last year.
“Maybe things seem to calm down and we’ll have a quieter winter,” Jeffrey Shaman, director of the Climate and Health program at Columbia University, told Insider.
One reason for hope is that the Food and Drug Administration could clear Pfizer’s COVID-19 injections for children aged 5 to 11 by the end of October. And Moderna’s bang might be ok for young children this winter.
Experts are also comforted by Delta’s behavior in other countries: the variant appears to shred a population like wildfire, then die out pretty quickly. This is probably because fewer people are susceptible to the infection now than at any time during the pandemic.
“It is very reasonable to expect fewer severe cases this coming winter compared to the previous one
winter, and compared to where we are now, because we now have higher immunity from vaccines and natural infections, ”said Jorge Alfaro-Murillo, associate researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.
Finally, Delta always appears to outperform other variants, including those that have the potential to bypass vaccine protection. Delta currently accounts for about 99% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to Scripps Research’s Outbreak.info tracker.
“I am convinced that over the next six months we are going to lower our rates and we are going to be able to have a season where we can get together indoors with other vaccinated people and feel normal, as we have. done in the summer, ”said Ellen Eaton, infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The United States could still have a bumpy recovery, however
Even as COVID-19 cases continue to decline nationwide, some areas are likely to experience outbreaks over the winter. Cold states are particularly vulnerable, as people spend more time indoors there.
Many states are also facing an uphill battle to get more gunfire. In West Virginia and Wyoming, for example, only 40% of residents are fully immunized – the least of any US state.
It will also take time before hospitals in poorly vaccinated states are no longer overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. The IHME model predicts that US hospitals could become increasingly stressed in December, after a brief reprieve in the fall.
But the farther away the predictions, the less certain they become.
“There are too many variables that can change during a pandemic to be able to give rough predictions any more.
than a month in advance, ”said Alfaro-Murillo.
Even the end of the pandemic, Shaman said, could be difficult to recognize in real time.
“When can we start putting that behind us and it just becomes something that we deal with functionally, but we bring the company back to where we need it? I think the answer is we probably aren’t going to know it that much. that’s not the case in the rear view, ”he said.