COVID-19 fourth wave is here. How big will it get? Too soon to know.

A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“Since the majority of our population is now immune, it’s unlikely that we’re going to return to the massive nationwide waves we saw back in January,” Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a Wednesday webinar with media.

But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We’re going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that’s vaccinated and the world that’s unvaccinated,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky,  chief of infectious diseases at an infectious disease specialist at  Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, have all been shown to be highly effective against variants of the virus, including Delta, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S.

Visitors wear masks as they walk in a shopping district, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on July 1, 2021. Coronavirus cases have jumped 500% in Los Angeles County over the past month and health officials warned Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that the especially contagious delta variant of the disease continues to spread rapidly among California's unvaccinated population.

More than 99% of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Ostrosky said virtually all his patients are unvaccinated and all regret not getting the shots. 

COVID-19 may not be as deadly in this new wave, because older people are largely vaccinated and younger people are less likely to die from an infection, said Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and adjunct faculty member at UCLA Medical Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *