When my friend texted me last week to say that she had a fever, I nearly discounted the possibility that she might have contracted Covid-19. The case numbers are so low in California right now, I thought.
But, it turns out, she did have Covid. And, as I found out the next day, so did I.
Over the past 10 days, I’ve heard about more friends and acquaintances infected with the coronavirus in Los Angeles, where I live, than at any time other than the earliest days of the Omicron surge.
Of course, this might be my own bias, given my recent positive diagnosis. But outside of my Covid-19 bubble, too, there are growing concerns that the United States is headed for another Covid wave.
Pandemic restrictions are being lifted, a more contagious Omicron subvariant is taking root nationwide, and infections are climbing in Western Europe, often a harbinger of what’s to come in the United States.
The big question seems to be not if cases will rise here, but how seriously we will need to take that increase.
“The bottom line is, we will likely see an uptick in cases,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top pandemic adviser, said Sunday in a TV interview. “Hopefully, we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”
Currently, coronavirus testing numbers nationwide are far lower than they were during the Omicron wave. But in California and other states, infections are no longer falling as precipitously as they once were.
This may be because people are socializing more as restrictions lift. The wave in Europe is believed to be at least partly fueled by a loosening of precautions.
And then there’s the proliferation of BA.2, a more contagious subvariant of Omicron. The subvariant is estimated to be 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than the previous version of Omicron, BA.1, which drove the winter wave.
Nationwide, BA.2 made up 23 percent of new coronavirus cases in mid-March, up from 2 percent a month before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest data from Los Angeles County shows that BA.2 accounts for less than 10 percent of new cases locally.
There’s no way to know for sure whether the spread of BA.2 will make infections rise overall. But early signs suggest that the coronavirus is already picking up across the United States.
Nationwide, roughly 40 percent of wastewater sites tracking coronavirus levels have reported increases in the virus over the past 15 days, according to the C.D.C.
In California, some of the biggest jumps have been detected at treatment plants in San Diego, San Benito and Fresno. A site that collects sewage from Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties reported a 26-fold increase in coronavirus levels in the past 15 days, federal data shows.
“Today we have a much lower case count, but that’s today, and that doesn’t mean we have a handle on what’s coming,” Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told me. “We’re in the calm before the storm.”
Other experts predicted that the next wave will most likely have less severe consequences than previous ones.
Obviously, the dangers of contracting Covid vary from person to person, and many who are immunocompromised remain at high-risk. But on average, the risks of becoming seriously ill have fallen because of immunity from past infections, vaccines, boosters and improved treatments.
To use myself as an example: I’m fully vaccinated and boosted, which probably helped prevent my infection from advancing beyond fever and fatigue. (I’m mostly recovered after many days spent resting.)
And if I had been high-risk, I could have taken one of the new antiviral treatments that reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by as much as 89 percent. So while many people may catch the coronavirus this year, far fewer are likely to become dangerously sick.
Jeffrey Klausner, a public health professor at the University of Southern California, summed it up this way: A rise in Covid cases in 2022 should be entirely different from one in 2020.
“There’s some likelihood that there will be additional infections, and maybe some additional waves, but we’re much better able to effectively respond to those and mitigate the severity and the risk of severe disease,” Klausner told me. “We’re kind of more in the realm right now of what a typical influenza season might look like.”
The rest of the news
Grocery store strike: Thousands of workers at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions are voting on whether to authorize a strike, The Associated Press reports.
Covid-19: Once hard to find, at-home test kits have become more readily available — for now.
D.M.V. tests: California is allowing the written portion of its driver’s test to be taken online, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Presidential bid: Democratic campaign leaders are quietly encouraging this California congressman to run for president in 2024 if President Biden doesn’t seek re-election, Politico reports.
Wells Fargo lawsuit: A Black homeowner from California is suing the bank for racial discrimination.
L.A. film museum: Following criticism, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open a new permanent exhibition devoted to the contributions of Jewish studio founders.
Anaïs Nin’s sanctuary: The erotic writer’s preserved Los Angeles home is a lasting monument to her life and legacy.
Drought consequences: As California’s ongoing drought forces farmers to leave their land unplanted, Central Valley farms are vanishing — and taking entire communities with them, The Washington Post reports.
Chevron strike: More than 500 workers at a Bay Area Chevron refinery went on strike on Monday over salary and safety concerns, The Associated Press reports.
Covid-19 pregnancy risk: A study from Kaiser Permanente found that pregnant people who contract Covid-19 are twice as likely to develop significant complications, Forbes reports.
What you get
$1.7 million homes in California.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Tammy Sims, who lives in Camarillo:
“I love visiting Laguna Beach in Orange County because it’s close enough for a day trip, and yet feels like I’m on a mini vacation in a tropical location like Hawaii. I have never seen water as aqua blue as in Laguna. The wonderful views from above the shore cliffs make it so picturesque for my photography, unlike other SoCal flat beaches. There are so many wonderful restaurants to dine in along Pacific Coast Highway, as well as art galleries and shops. I can get a lot of walking in taking in all of the sights. It’s my summer getaway destination without costing a lot of money!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Deyonna Hancock didn’t have an easy road to her new career in construction.
Despite being vaccinated, she contracted Covid-19 three times, which slowed her training and path to a job.
She also had to break into a field where she is a rarity — only 4.5 percent of construction laborers nationwide are women.
But Hancock enjoys the work. One of her instructors told The New York Times that Hancock “caught everything everyone else missed.” And, as Hancock painted, she hummed.
Read Hancock’s powerful story in The Times.