Europe’s omicron surge ‘totally different’ than what’s expected in Washington

Apr 1, 2022, 6:03 AM | Updated: 6:03 am
People walk on a pedestrian shopping street in the city center during the Omicron wave (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

While some Western Washington counties report upticks in COVID case rates caused by the BA.2 variant of omicron, Dr. Ali Mokdad, epidemiologist and chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, clarifies why those trends are unlikely to materialize into a greater surge.

COVID case numbers tick back up in King County, but ‘positive trends’ persist

Mokdad says the Institute of Health Metrics at UW is predicting cases will pretty much be down until next winter because of high vaccination and widespread immunity from the winter omicron surge. Winter waves will happen each year like the flu as the virus becomes endemic, and boosters will be recommended each year.

While Europe is having a significant surge right now, Mokdad says there are many reasons why we will likely not follow with as big of a wave.

For one, European countries tended to end their COVID protocols all at once, whereas in Washington we had a slower transition.

“We are not predicting a surge in the U.S. …. at the national level and not in our state here in Washington, simply because the BA.2 spread in Europe was totally different than what we will expect here in the U.S.,” Dr. Mokdad told KIRO Newsradio.

Additionally, the U.S. has more natural immunity from having had more cases during the omicron surge. Since a lot of the people who got omicron weren’t vaccinated, the caseload combined with vaccination spread out our immunity to even more people.

The one thing the U.S. and Washington state likely will have in common with Europe is a very short-lived surge. Many European countries are already coming down from their wave, and it’s likely that here too, it will be a matter of a few weeks, not months.

“We have seen a small wave … in many states, we are projecting this peak, but it will be short-lived like what we have seen in Europe. It went up for a while … now we see a decline,” Dr. Mokdad added.

“In the Netherlands, we see a decline as well as in the U.K. That pattern has been exactly the same here, although that bump that we are seeing right now will be much lower in the U.S. simply because we have more immunity, due to the fact that we have a better vaccine and higher infections compared to Europe.”

KIRO Newsradio’s Nicole Jennings contributed to this report. 

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Europe’s omicron surge ‘totally different’ than what’s expected in Washington