Last winter saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Health experts say there is reason to be hopeful this second pandemic winter will be different.
Dr. Cole Beeler, IU Health infectious disease physician, said the landscape of the pandemic has changed.
“I think we're in a completely different world as it relates to how COVID is spreading in the population and who it's targeting,” Beeler said.
He said last winter there was no vaccine available and less of the population had been infected, which meant more people were vulnerable to coronavirus.
“The good news is that more and more people are getting vaccinated, there are booster recommendations that are available to increase the immune protection from the most vulnerable population, and that delta is coming down,” Beeler said.
But Beeler said the pandemic is not over yet and it might be too early to predict what this winter will look like. He said people should be cautious— infection rates and variants can change quickly.
“Winter is the time for respiratory viruses,” Beeler said. “And anything that was able to spread in the summer is extremely able to be spread in the winter.”
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Beeler said dry weather and indoor gatherings make virus transmission easier.
"It's a very real possibility that the percentage of the population that is not protected – and that's probably anywhere between 40 to 50 percent, based on vaccine and previous infection – could potentially get infected or reinfected," he said. "When you couple that with the potential for a bad flu season, it does make me nervous about giving too rosey of a picture as it relates to the next few months."
He said people should continue practices to prevent a surge this winter — like wearing masks, avoiding large groups inside and getting vaccinated.