US health officials expect COVID-19 uptick in next few weeks

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 12:05 PM EDT
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(CNN) - After new COVID-19 cases rise in Europe, top health officials expect increases in the U.S., too, and one expert said it’s time to prepare.

In the U.K., new COVID-19 cases are climbing once again, driven largely by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

Top health officials said what happens there tends to play out in the U.S. about two to three weeks later.

“So we better pay close attention to what’s going on there,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases.

Fauci said the U.S. will likely see an uptick in cases, but not a surge, as BA.2 is more contagious than the original omicron subvariant. He said it doesn’t seem to be the cause of the U.K.’s rise in hospitalizations as of now.

“It’s a very interesting situation where the cases are going up,” Fauci said. “But it does not at this point in time appear to be any degree of severity.”

He said BA.2 may become the dominant variant in the U.S. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was the cause of an estimated 23% of new COVID-19 infections, up from 14% the previous week.

Fauci cautioned that the U.S. needs to be prepared for the possibility of another variant in the future, which means building up supplies of antivirals, tests and vaccinations.

“We can’t just say we’re done and move on. We’ve got to be able to be flexible,” Fauci said.

Meanwhile, FDA vaccine advisers are scheduled to meet on April 6 to discuss the possible need for COVID-19 booster shots in the future and whether the vaccine could become an annual shot, like flu shots.

A growing share of sewage systems in the U.S. have detected increased levels of coronavirus in recent weeks, according to data released last week by the CDC.

Nearly 40% of wastewater sampling sites with recent data reported at least some level increase over the past 15 days, more than twice the share from a month ago.

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