President Biden declared the COVID pandemic “over” in September 2022, and, if we’re honest, it does kind of feel like we’ve gotten back to “normal.”1 But appearances can be deceiving, and experts are now warning of a “Tripledemic” (a simultaneous surge in COVID-19, flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections) as we head into this year’s cold & flu season.2

So Where Do Things Stand With COVID?

The Facts: We’ve definitely come a long way since COVID-19 became part of our lives early in 2020. For example, the days of leaving our groceries outside for hours (while they decontaminate) and retreating to opposite sides of the street while walking our dogs are gone. We’ve (mostly) stopped conducting our entire lives on zoom and the once popular phrase “out of an abundance of caution” has dropped out of our lexicon. Today, we understand the COVID-19 disease better than we did in the past and we have vaccines to protect ourselves against it.

The Numbers Don’t Lie (Just Like Shakira’s Hips):

Let’s Start Off With Some Stats:

  • The U.S. continues to rank No. 1 in total COVID cases and total deaths from COVID worldwide. We’re now at about 100 million COVID cases and over 1 million COVID-related deaths.3

    Reality Check:
    Our population in the U.S. is relatively large, so it’s not a total shock that our numbers would be so high. If you take the size of our population into account and calculate the number of total cases per capita (per person) and the number of deaths per capita, the U.S. isn’t first in either category.
  • There are about 290,000 new COVID cases in the U.S. per week, now, and about 2,300 COVID-related deaths per week, as well.4 We obviously want these numbers to be lower, but this is a fraction of what they were 2 years ago. For example, in mid-November of 2020, there were about 920,000 new COVID cases per week and about 8,400 COVID-related deaths per week. And in mid-November of 2021, there were roughly 540,000 new cases per week and about 8,200 deaths per week.5

The Good News (At The Moment): The number of daily cases in the U.S. has plateaued and the daily death rate is dipping.6 In addition, children, as a whole, have been less affected by this virus than adults. For instance, only 18% of the total COVID cases have been in children and the death rate is much lower in the pediatric population than it is in the adult population.7

The (Potentially) Not So Good News: New COVID variants are coming onto the scene, threatening to stir things up. For example, the “Scrabble Variants” are now making a name for themselves and have become the dominant strain(s) in the U.S. (usurping the Omicron BA.5 subvariant).8 In addition, there’s been a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Europe, which (if history repeats itself), means we can expect COVID cases to spike in the U.S. soon, as well.9

What We Don’t Need. New mutations that create COVID-19 variants that are more contagious and/or more deadly than the variants currently in circulation. We also don’t want new variants to evolve in such a way that they evade our vaccines.

So far, experts think the bivalent (Omicron-targeted) booster shots on the market should protect us against the new Scrabble variants (which are offshoots of the Omicron variant).10 That being said, only 10% of those eligible for the bivalent booster shots in the U.S. have gotten one.11 Remember kids 5 years & up can get Pfizer’s bivalent booster vaccine and kids 6 years & older are eligible for Moderna’s version of the bivalent booster shot. Note: These children must complete their primary COVID vaccine series before they can get the booster shot.

The Bottom Line

While we may be 100% mentally over COVID, the reality is that this disease is probably going to stick around and be a part of our lives for good. But physicians (and everyone else for that matter) are hoping that it will fade into the background, like the flu or even the common cold (which already seems to be happening). That being said, “background illnesses” like the flu and RSV are no joke (a fact that we’re being reminded of now).

Ideally, we’ll get to a point where we just need a yearly COVID booster shot to ward off severe illness. But first, we need to stay vigilant and protect ourselves and our kids this winter as a number of respiratory illnesses (I’m looking at you RSV and flu) surge in our country.