2-state docs fear COVID surge but glad to see new boosters

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 4:43 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WHNS) - You probably hear about it less and less nowadays, but health officials are bracing for a spike in COVID cases.

One South Carolina expert says it could start, as soon as the dust settles from Labor Day.

But a new booster shot could help avoid that.

The biggest thing doctors want you to know is COVID is not gone; it’s still here and still very contagious.

Their expectation is that we’ll see another spike heading into the colder season, like we have in previous years. The question that remains to be seen: How big of a spike and if the spike will cause more severe cases?

We’ve been seeing the same virus with new variants. Dr. Helmut Albrecht with Prisma Health says that hasn’t changed.

“It’s just nobody talks about it anymore and really nobody tracks it anymore” said Albrecht, an infectious disease research director with Prisma Health.

Because of the trend and availability of take-home COVID tests, he says the number of COVID cases is severely underestimated. But hospitalizations show a trend.

“We’ve had an increase in admissions and deaths in the hospital,” he said.

It’s nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago and it won’t overwhelm hospitals anymore.

But even 50 cases a day in the hospital with COVID is a lot more than the five cases that we were seeing earlier in the year, he said.

Albrecht says it could spike more. The predominant variant floating right now is Omicron BA.5. it’s still highly contagious, but mostly mild. Experts are keeping an eye on the next one, BA.4.

“No guarantee that it will stay that way, the next variant may be significantly more virulent,” he said.

The new round of boosters approved last week protects against BA.5 and possibly BA.4, too.

Albrecht says if you haven’t gotten COVID in the past two months, a booster in six months, have plans to travel, or a high-risk condition, it might be a good time to get another poke.

“If you’re up for a booster,” he said, “I think this new booster is potentially better.”