LONDON − As COVID-19 cases increase across Europe following the easing of COVID restrictions, experts warn that the trends happening in Europe might be indicators for the United States this summer.
In February, the United Kingdom announced the removal of COVID-19 restrictions. But by the end of March, the U.K.’s office for National Statistics reported that a record-breaking 4.9 million people in the U.K. infected with the omicron variant.
Researchers believe one of the main factors behind the rising cases is BA.2, a sub-lineage of the omicron variant. The original omicron variant, now known as BA.1, hit the U.K. hard last winter, causing a large wave of infections and hospitalizations. In late January, a second and more transmissible variation of omicron, BA.2, was starting to spread around the world.
“I do think we need to be very concerned and watching the trends across the ocean, because in the entire course of the pandemic, we can look at the trends that happened in the United Kingdom and in Europe, particularly western Europe, and we often see that the United States follows suit somewhere around 4 to 8 weeks later,” Dr. Laura Morris, MU Health Care’s COVID-19 vaccine co-chair, said.
Some experts are concerned that there might be another COVID surge in early summer. Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx announced recently that the south should prepare for a wave of COVID-19 this summer similar to the surges that occurred in 2020 and 2021.
“What has happened each time is we’ve had a summer surge across the South and a winter surge that starts in our Northern Plains and moves down, accelerated by Thanksgiving and the holidays,” Birx said.
COVID-19 cases are increasing in the majority of U.S. states and territories in recent weeks, and experts believe that two new subvariants that evolved from the BA.2 subvariant may be contributors in the growing number of cases.
At the end of April, Rebecca Roesslet, the public health and planning coordinator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, said mid-Missouri saw much lower numbers than it had in January of this year.
However, the State of Missouri is reporting a 39% increase in COVID-19 cases, a total of more than 5,602 cases for the week of May Fifth through May 11th.
“It’s always smart to look at changes in behavior and regulations and see how it’s impacted. So you can kind of maybe get a little bit of a projection as to what you might see coming up,” Roesslet said.
“If I were sitting in Missouri, I wouldn’t feel well, it’s going to be okay, here, because we’re rural. The experience before was, it was okay at the beginning, but that it came, and it spread widely,” Professor Sir Michael Marmot FRCP, the director of University College London Institute of Health Equity, said.
While summer is a time for gatherings such as graduations or weddings, Columbia/Boone County PHHS advises staying current with vaccinations and staying home this summer if feeling unwell.