How Experts Can Tell If We're Having A BA.2 Surge In The US

With roughly 27,000 new COVID-19 cases reported daily in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracking data shows that numbers are at an all-time low since the summer of last year (via TIME). While many are hopeful that the end of the pandemic is in sight, experts say that the rise of BA.2 variant cases across certain states means that the potential for another surge is not out of the question.

Founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute Dr. Eric Topol explains to TIME that there are ways in which we can prevent a surge, however, it's difficult to do so without adequate measures in place to anticipate its arrival. As reported by the CDC, during the week of March 13, the BA.2 variant accounted for 35% of COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S., according to TIME. While White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci foresees a continued "uptick" in cases, the development of a surge is not anticipated at this time. With additional metrics currently in place, scientists are diligently monitoring as to whether or not this may change.

Health officials are using a combination of tracking measures

The increased usage of at-home tests has presented challenges for health experts to accurately monitor new COVID-19 cases, Healthline reports. Therefore, experts have implemented additional data tracking measures in order to get ahead of a surge before it's upon us. Pre-existing measures such as COVID-19 hospitalization numbers and deaths will remain in effect, although some experts say these metrics are not the best indication of cases in real time. Assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dr. Brian Labus, tells Healthline that hospitalization data doesn't show up right away and delays could make it difficult to know if a wave is happening.

Associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, Dr. Anne Monroe, suggests that COVID-19 emergency room visits, as well as reported school and workplace absences, can also help health experts get a more accurate read on case numbers (via Healthline). In addition, wastewater samples have also been used to track community COVID numbers through detection of the virus in human fecal matter. While none of these methods can guarantee 100% accuracy when tracking for a potential surge, Dr. Monroe explains that when methods are combined, they can paint a clearer picture of community spread that can help guide public health decision-making.