The U.S. should prepare for a Covid-19 surge this summer that could hit southern states the hardest, former Trump Administration pandemic response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told Face the Nation Sunday, as coronavirus infections gradually rise nationwide.
Birx said coronavirus surges in other countries—including South Africa—tend to come every four to six months, suggesting that people’s natural immunity from prior Covid-19 infections may wane over that period.
Birx noted that about one year ago, the United States had a “mini” Covid-19 surge in April 2021, followed by a lull “where everybody thought it was over” and then another surge in August and September—a pattern that could repeat itself this year.
Covid-19 infections are picking up across the U.S., with the seven-day average of new cases rising by 122% over roughly the past month to 56,166 per day in the last week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures—though case counts are still well below their January peak, when the country reported an average of 805,814 cases per day.
“We should be preparing right now for a potential surge in the summer across the southern United States because we saw it in 2020 and we saw it in 2021,” Birx told Face The Nation.
A jump in Covid-19 infections may not be accompanied by a surge in deaths, due to the high transmissibility but relatively low severity of the coronavirus’ omicron variant. Though Covid-19 infections have more than doubled over roughly the past month, average Covid-19 deaths have decreased by 53% in the same period, according to CDC data.
As Covid-19 vaccinations and treatments become available to younger people and Americans grow increasingly comfortable gathering in person, public health experts have warned the public not to grow complacent about the threat of the virus. The seven-day average number of Covid-19 hospital admissions has increased by 14% over the previous week, according to the CDC. Additionally, the omicron variant, while generally less severe than other variants, has been linked to a fourfold increase in child Covid-19 hospitalizations, with unvaccinated children far more likely than vaccinated children to be severely impacted. The administration is reportedly planning to make Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid available at pharmacies across the U.S. in an attempt to reduce hospitalizations and other negative outcomes.
In a book released last month, Birx described alleged blunders in the Trump Administration’s Covid-19 response that Birx said made the pandemic worse and put the public at risk. However, the New York Times reported in 2020 that Birx encouraged administration officials to believe the pandemic would subside quickly during the spring, contributing to an inadequate early pandemic response. After being relieved of her position as Covid-19 adviser by the incoming Biden Administration, Birx claimed that she had “always” thought about quitting because she felt ineffectual in her role in the Trump Administration.
991,030. That’s how many Covid-19 deaths have been cumulatively reported in the U.S. as of Sunday, according to the CDC.