Why Experts Say COVID-19 Cases May Surge This Winter

As we approach the second half of November, many are looking ahead to the upcoming winter season. With the remaining months of the year packed with holiday celebrations, experts are taking stock of current COVID-19 numbers across the country and assessing what lies ahead for Americans.

With COVID-19 cases having recently stalled in the United States, many feel encouraged by the plateau in numbers. However, health officials are stressing that this does not mean the numbers are necessarily decreasing across the board (via CNN). The reason is because many states that previously had high rates of COVID-19 infection, such as Florida, have seen a drastic drop in cases. Smaller states have simultaneously seen minor upticks in cases, essentially balancing out total numbers across the U.S.

Epidemiologists anticipate a rise in cases over the next couple of months due to a number of factors, such as resistance to mask-wearing, a continued lack of vaccinations, and holiday travel plans (per CNN). "There will be a lot of winter travel to Florida," epidemiologist Ali Mokdad told CNN. "Infections will start all over again. We are so interconnected."

COVID-19 and holiday travel

Most COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are currently the result of the delta variant (via USA Today). The variant's highly contagious nature coupled with a progressive decline in immunity since initial vaccinations now have lawmakers reconsidering travel requirements in light of the upcoming holidays.

When it comes to air travel, dozens of lawmakers are now pushing for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order for travelers to fly within the United States. In a letter to President Joe Biden, government officials elaborated on their reasoning, stating that this mandate would "ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of COVID-19 from visiting family and friends."

Experts are urging citizens to exercise caution this upcoming winter season and to not be misled by what appears to be a leveling off of cases. Epidemiologist Ali Mokdad stresses that states, such as Florida, did not necessarily see a decrease in cases due to citizens abiding by federal guidelines, but rather because the virus unfortunately infected so many. "Florida has a large population of the elderly, who went and got vaccinated," Mokdad told CNN. "And the young people simply got infected. So the virus ran out of people to infect." Therefore, travelers should make every effort to minimize the chances of transmission this holiday season.