UNMC: America Is Setting Itself Up for a Big Spike In COVID-19 Cases

May 12, 2022, 6:14 p.m. ·

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UNMC’s Dr. James Lawler said he’s more concerned with omicron than delta because of omicron’s high transmission rate. (Photo courtesy UNMC Communications)

As America approaches a million dead from COVID-19 and new waves surge across the country, Nebraska Public Media News reports, things could get a lot worse if people aren’t mindful. William Padmore with Nebraska Public Media News reports.

Dr. James Lawler is Executive Director for the Global Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

As the United States nears a million dead from the disease Lawler said it is crucial for people to remember that the pandemic is NOT over.

“In fact, there are areas of the Northeast that are having some of their worst epidemic waves yet in terms of not only cases but actual hospitalizations as well,” said Lawler.

He added that if more isn’t done at all levels to increase vaccinations and to get people to re-up on their booster shots, America could see another big surge of COVID-19 cases by the fall. He said the situation isn’t helped by the fact that many shots will likely have worn off by then.

Photo of a man in navy suit, with a yellow and blue striped tie.
Dr. James Lawler (Photo Courtesy, University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine)

“So it's not only important to be vaccinated with the initial two doses, it's important to have boosters and for those boosters to be as up to date as you can get them.”

Also complicating matters; people seem to be dropping preventive measures that were common in the beginning of the pandemic.

“We're not wearing masks on public transportation anymore. Most people aren't wearing masks anywhere,” said Lawler. “So to expect, with lower population immunity, more transmissible viruses, and no non-pharmaceutical interventions, I'm not sure why people expect we're going to see anything other than a large epidemic wave.”

Other reasons Lawler gives for America’s lack of preparedness include weak federal and state responses from politicians who fear COVID restrictions are too unpopular as well as misinformation, like the myth that future variants of COVID-19 are less deadly than past variants.

“They are milder in populations that have high rates of immunity because of vaccines but when you look at populations that have low rates of background immunity, or when you do studies controlling for vaccination status and other comorbidities, these variants have exactly the same rate of hospitalization and exactly the same fatality rate as previous variants."

He says in order to truly put the pandemic behind us, it will require collective action.

“And that's unfortunately, in a society where we are today, we're very fractured, and getting people to pull together and to do things, as a community is very difficult these days. But that's what it takes to beat a pandemic."