The Next COVID-19 Wave Could Hit Young People Hardest

Are we headed towards a fourth wave?

A person wears a mask and stares out of a window

With the vaccine rollout well underway and further great news about vaccine testing in young kids coming out weekly, it can be easy to feel like the pandemic is coming to a close. But experts fear that we could be witnessing the start of another surge in cases in the United States and the numbers indicate that the new wave is specifically dangerous for young, unvaccinated people.

After a sharp decrease in February and March following the third wave, COVID cases are back on the rise in the United States. Currently, numbers are not indicative of a fourth wave but experts say that the rapid increase in cases in Europe shows that America may soon be facing another surge.

“I do think we still have a few more rough weeks ahead,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist, and epidemiologist told CNN. “What we know from the past year of the pandemic is that we tend to trend about three to four weeks behind Europe in terms of our pandemic patterns.”

What is causing cases to rise? It appears to be due to new and widespread coronavirus variants, most notably the B.1.1.7 variant, which so far have proven to be more contagious than the original COVID virus. Young people are being heavily targeted by this new strain, as most have not yet received their vaccination to protect them.

Typically, healthy younger people have been far less likely to get infected, and even when they did catch COVID, the cases were rarely serious. However, in several states, including Michigan, Florida, and New Jersey, there has been a sizable increase in people under the age of 40 being hospitalized due to COVID. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that the data shows that we are “seeing outbreaks in schools and infections in social cohorts that haven’t been exposed to the virus before.”

Hopefully, the continued increase in vaccine doses administered will allow us to avoid the fourth wave but with cases on the rise, it’s important to remember to continue practicing social distancing protocol, especially wearing a mask.