We’ve just about made it through a third pandemic summer and the question on everybody’s mind – at least, those who aren’t pretending that COVID has gone away – is whether we’re going to have a third surge this fall and winter.
In 2020, New Hampshire went from having seven patients in the hospital with COVID at the start of September to 330 at the end of December. In 2021, we went from 110 in September to 475 the week before Christmas.
As I write this, the state hospital association says there are 94 people hospitalized with COVID. If we follow 2021’s pattern more than 400 will be in hospital beds by Christmas and if we follow 2020’s pattern there will be more than 4,000 of them.
Which is more likely? Your guess is as good as mine.
Prediction is hard because the third pandemic summer has been very different from the first two.
Both 2020 and 2021 saw COVID numbers fall sharply in the summer (although early 2020 data is a bit sketchy, so it’s a bit hard to say) before rebounding in the fall.
But this year the hospitalization numbers didn’t fall after school let out for the summer. They’ve stayed roughly flat at a fairly high level, bouncing around between 90 and 110 since May. Deaths have also been relatively stable most of the summer, although they’ve dipped the past few weeks in a hopeful sign.
Presumably, this lack of a mid-summer dip reflects the arrival of new variants that are more contagious and often bypass immunity acquired from earlier illness or vaccination.
Perhaps this means fall will also see more problems than in the past. Perhaps it means COVID has reached a plateau in New Hampshire where it will stay for the foreseeable future, no matter what we do. Perhaps it means COVID has peaked here and will avoid the cold-weather boost before finally fading away next spring.
Or perhaps it means our attention will soon shift to monkeypox. Or polio. Or something else percolating elsewhere in the world.
Hoo boy, I sure hope not.
In the meantime, I will of course get the new omicron booster as soon as it’s approved. I’m also still wearing a mask when shopping, banking and in most indoor public spaces although I’m slipping a bit.
My wife and I were mostly maskless when we ate in a restaurant indoors last week for the first time since 2019. It had been so long that I forgot how to use a credit card; the server had to remind me.