For the media

Will COVID be a summer of ’24 bummer?

By The Health News Team | July 3, 2024
Packed suitcase with person holding a mask

We love big waves in Southern California but there’s one we’re hoping will roll on by: a summer wave of COVID-19. While cases of the illness and related hospitalizations and deaths remain low, they have increased in past summers, and experts are warning people to consider being cautious in certain situations during the summer of ’24.

“During summer, people are traveling more; they may be indoors more; they’re attending large gatherings, movies and concerts,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Additionally, most are no longer masking, and immunity from earlier vaccinations and COVID illness is waning.”

What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that certain groups — older adults, infants and people with underlying medical conditions or disabilities — continue to be hospitalized due to COVID at higher rates, especially if they’re not up to date on their COVID vaccine. And though COVID is not likely to cause serious illness for most people, long-COVID can occur even in those who have mild illness.

Experts keep an eye on new variants

While cases of COVID have significantly waned since the pandemic, the coronavirus has continued to mutate into new strains. New subvariant strains of the omicron variant have recently been identified and are now responsible for more than 50% of new cases.

Experts worry COVID cases caused by these variants could continue to rise. However, symptoms are not anticipated to differ or be more severe than those of infections caused by omicron.

Common COVID symptoms continue to include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Avoid getting caught in a COVID wave

According to the CDC, COVID remains a public health threat, and continued efforts to prevent its spread are essential.

To help prevent illness and COVID spread:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Experts expect the updated COVID vaccine to provide additional protection against the new variants.

  • Improve ventilation in stuffy, indoor locations.

  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

  • Stay home if you may have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone and overall symptoms are getting better.

  • If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, monitor your symptoms and test for infection if symptoms arise.

  • Talk with your doctor about additional preventive measures if you are at high risk of getting very sick.

“If you plan to travel via airplane or find yourself in a small space with poor ventilation, you might also want to consider wearing a face mask,” Dr. Olulade says. “A quality, well-fitting mask is effective at reducing the risk of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID, flu and RSV.”

If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor or other health care providers can advise you on available treatments, including Paxlovid, an oral antiviral medication. Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in people that are at high risk of severe COVID. It should be taken within five days of experiencing symptoms.

“Though we wish it would disappear, COVID is still here, unfortunately,” Dr. Olulade says. "This is why it is so important that everyone gets vaccinated, which can reduce your chance of getting COVID-19 and long COVID, decrease the risk of severe illness and death, and reduce the spread of COVID in the community. But don’t forget that you are not considered ‘up to date’ on vaccines until you’ve received the updated vaccine.”

Learn more about COVID-19; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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