A Fourth Potential COVID-19 Wave

BLU-MED field hospital structures on a cloudy day.
A BLU-MED Field Hospital is Installed in San Antonio, Texas to Help with an Increasing Number of COVID-19 Cases and Migrant Families and Children Crossing the Border.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States set a new record, surpassing 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the last 24 hours. Despite 18.5% of Americans now being fully vaccinated, new and highly contagious variants are resulting in a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

Experts are warning of a potentially dangerous “fourth wave” if safety measures are relaxed and more people do not get vaccinated. Given the United States typically trends 3 to 4-weeks behind Europe in terms of pandemic patterns, Europe has been grappling with an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as a result of the UK-B.1.1.7 variant.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine explains, “We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand-new virus. It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously.”

When asked what the difference between previous surges and the potential for a fourth surge, Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician stated, “the people most affected now are the younger individuals. We’re seeing in places like Michigan that the people who are now getting hospitalized by large numbers are people in their 30s and 40s. And now we’re even seeing children getting infected in larger numbers, too.”

It’s not just Michigan. More states are reporting increases in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including Minnesota, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. 

Chart showing new reported cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the U.S.

Largely a result of 6 million people participating in spring break travel and activities during the month of March, the U.S. is now experiencing a 31% and 48% increase, respectively, in the number of hospitalizations among the 20-29 and 40-49 age groups, according to New Jersey state health commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Despite the warning signs and the fact that 28.9% of Americans (roughly one-sixth the population) have had at least one dose, Dr. Fauci continues to ask for help in following safety measures – masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowds – coupled with ongoing vaccination efforts to help curb a fourth and potentially dangerous COVID-19 surge.


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