While many Americans have decided the pandemic is “over” as it pertains to their own lives — a full 37 percent, according to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll — those who’ve been paying close attention to the latest COVID-19 developments overseas are now asking themselves two troublesome questions.
(Yahoo News).- Over the last two weeks, COVID cases have shot up more than 25% across the European Union. In several European countries, the curve is even steeper: The United Kingdom (120%), Finland (88%) Switzerland (83%), Belgium (62%), Austria (59%), Germany (53%), Italy (49%), the Netherlands (45%) and France (27%). Hospitalizations are starting to rise as well.
And it’s not just this new trajectory that’s alarming; it’s the fact that it’s coming so quickly on the heels of Europe’s previous wave of infection — an Omicron surge that was even larger, and peaked even later, than the one in the United States.
At first, both areas seemed to be descending at a similar pace, with the EU about a month behind America. The U.S. dropped to 100 new daily cases per 100,000 residents by the beginning of February; the E.U. fell to the same threshold by the beginning of March. But then, instead of continuing to plummet as the U.S. rate did, the European Union reversed course.
Today, the United States is averaging 9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. The E.U. is averaging 125. Austria is averaging 475 — more than ever before.
So does this mean the United States is about to experience yet another huge surge at precisely the moment when our last modest safety measures — namely, indoor mask requirements in public places and schools — have been lifted?
The answer is … complicated.
It’s true that over “two years of the pandemic, the United Kingdom and Europe have provided five unmistakable warnings to America that a new surge was occurring,” as Dr. Eric Topol, founder, and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, wrote Wednesday in the Guardian. “Within weeks, each time, the United States experienced a new wave, some not as severe (such as with the Alpha variant), some worse (Delta and Omicron variants). From this COVID track record over two years, it is palpable: What happens in the UK and Europe doesn’t stay in the UK and Europe.”