Biggest COVID-19 wave of 2023 might happen in weeks, experts say

The current CDC models predict an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations until the end of the year.

“The bad news is that test positively is up, hospitalizations are up, and emergency department is up, visits, I mean,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, associate professor for the USF College of Public Health.

This comes as a new version, JN.1, gains traction and spreads rapidly. The CDC reports a more than 25% spike in mortality over the last week.

While the statistics are rising, officials say it has been worse in previous years.

“We’re not where we were with delta and things like that; this is an omicron spin-off strain, relatively mild,” said Roberts.

“Of course for people who are at risk, people who have other underlying conditions, and people who are like me who are older than 65, are definitely at a greater risk of hospitalization,” said public health expert and researcher Dr. Tom Unnasch.

Health authorities predict the current increase began after Thanksgiving and will worsen as parties and travel continue during the holiday season.

“A whole lot of people reported getting sick following their Thanksgiving vacations, and then, of course, those people then spread it to their contacts, and so you kind of see this thing go on,” said Roberts.

“Once that starts, it doesn’t stop because you just get everyone that was traveling spread it to new people and on and on and on,” she added.

Experts expect in the next few weeks we’ll see one of the biggest waves we’ve seen this year.

“A lot of this is driven by the amount of contact, close contact that people have with one another. Let’s face it: this time of the year, people are going to parties, people are going to concerts, people are getting together with large family groupings for the holidays, and all of those things together give a pretty good chance for these viruses to jump around,” said Unnasch.

Officials anticipate that numbers will peak at the end of the month and into January.

“I think we’re going to see over the next several years or so that this going to be just one more of those season things that’s going to be coming around,” said Unnasch.

“Flu goes up this time of the year all the time, colds go up this time of the year all the time, and COVID is just going to follow that same pattern. This is going to be with us for the rest of humanity’s life on this planet, I’m afraid,” he added.

Doctors advise people to be tested before visiting elderly relatives or people with weakened immune systems over the holiday season.

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