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October 25, 2021

Have we seen the last big Covid-19 surge?

Daily Briefing

    Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb last month said it is likely the delta variant will have run its course by Thanksgiving, marking the last major surge of Covid-19 in the United States—predictions supported by other experts and new case models.

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    Gottlieb predicts infection rates could decline this fall and winter

    During an interview with CNN, Gottlieb said he not only believed the delta variant will have run out its course by Thanksgiving, but that "after we get through this, this may be the last major wave of infection and we're going to start to transition from the pandemic phase of this virus—at least here in the United States—to a more endemic phase where the coronavirus becomes a persistent threat but you're not seeing levels of infection quite the same way that you've seen them in the past year and a half."

    In an earlier interview with CNBC, Gottlieb also cited declining infection rates in the South as evidence of a potentially milder Covid-19 winter.

    "I thought there was an indication the South was peaking, and I think it's pretty clear right now the South has peaked," he said, adding, "It doesn't feel that way because we still have a lot of new infections on a day-over-day basis, and the hospitals still have some very hard weeks ahead. They're still going to get maxed out as the infections start to decline."

    Gottlieb also cautioned that because people can expect to fall ill from several different pathogens during this coming fall and winter, the use of Covid-19 testing to differentiate other viruses from the coronavirus will be critical to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

    All that said, however, Gottlieb noted that while Covid-19 has already peaked or may soon do so, the virus will likely continue to loom as a consistent threat in the United States, Deseret News reports.

    Case models echo positive projections

    Separately, a model from the Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub projected that infections could decrease from a September average of roughly 127,000 cases per day down to about 9,000 cases per day—the lowest case count in the United States since the the pandemic began in March 2020, Business Insider reports. According to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Covid-19 will remain a public-health threat until the United States sees fewer than 10,000 daily cases.

    According to Business Insider, the model is an average of nine distinct projections. It presumes as a base for its calculations that children will get vaccinated at a rate similar to that of adolescents once a vaccine is authorized for their use, and that no new coronavirus strains will emerge that are more transmissible than the delta variant. Overall, according to the model, deaths from Covid-19 could decline from around 2,000 per day to less than 60 per day by mid-March.

    That said, experts involved have noted that there's a "wide range of uncertainty" in the models. And a separate forecast from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that the daily rate of infections could once again surge in November following a decline in October. Under that forecast, the daily fatality rate could fall below 1,200 in January, provided mask use remains consistent.

    "We have to be cautious because the virus has shown us time and time again that new variants or people loosening up on how careful they're being can lead things to come roaring back," said Justin Lessler, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who helps run the Modeling Hub.

    Separately, Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said, "I sort of think we're in a version of what our reality is going to be for the foreseeable future. Maybe it gets 10 or 20% better, maybe it gets 10 or 20% worse. But I can't see it getting 90% better or 90% worse." (Reed, Axios, 10/22; Bump, Washington Post, 10/21; Stankiewicz, CNBC, 8/23; Cohen/Hall, Business Insider, 9/28; Scribner, Deseret News, 9/28; Bendix, Business Insider, 9/25)

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