An ongoing spike in COVID-19 infections six times worse than last year is likely even higher than what has been reported as summer begins, according to health officials.
An article by two top infectious disease specialists published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association warns that reports of new cases, now averaging 100,000 a day in the U.S., are being “grossly underreported” due to the increased availability of at-home testing.
The article, written by Carlos del Rio and Preeti N. Malani, also warns that fresh masking and social distancing procedures could become necessary as the spike worsens in some places.
“This means continuing to adapt to life with COVID-19 and recognizing that during the next phase of the pandemic, there will be times when community transmission will be low and precautions can be ‘dialed down’ and times when increased transmission will require mitigation efforts to be ‘dialed up,’” they write.
Dr. del Rio, president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said the failure of many Americans to report positive results from at-home testing kits to a doctor means “we may have 800,000 cases a day instead of 100,000 cases.”
“COVID is not over and the virus isn’t going to disappear,” Dr. del Rio told The Washington Times. “You’re likely to get this virus at some point. But if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you’re unlikely to get very sick.”
Access to treatment makes 2022 “very different” from 2021, the physician added.
“The virus is more and more transmissible, and harder to detect, but the chances of hospitalization are going down,” said Dr. del Rio, an Emory University professor who helped oversee federal vaccine testing. “If you find yourself infected, get treatment.”
The article comes as the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center showed a seven-day average of 119,725 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. on Saturday — more than six times higher than the 17,887 cases on May 28 last year.
At the same, the seven-day average of 470 deaths reported Friday was down from 637 on the same day last year.
Friday’s journal article credited the drop in deaths partly to increased immunity through vaccines and earlier infections.